Palestinians killed in West Bank raid as Israeli stabbed in bus attack

Raid came after spate of attacks in Israel that claimed 11 lives since last week

An Israel patrol in a village south of Jenin in the occupied West Bank on March 30, 2022. AFP
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Two Palestinians were killed in a raid by Israeli security forces in the northern West Bank city of Jenin on Thursday after a string of attacks in Israel over the past week. A third Palestinian was killed after reportedly trying to stab passengers on a bus.

The violence came after a Palestinian from a village near Jenin armed with an M-16 assault rifle killed five Israeli civilians in the streets of Bnei Brak, an Orthodox Jewish city near Tel Aviv, on Tuesday night.

Thursday's violence erupted after the Israeli military said "Palestinian gunmen opened fire at soldiers, who responded with fire", when they entered the Jenin refugee camp in an attempt to arrest undisclosed suspects.

As well as the two killed, at least 14 people were wounded by live ammunition and one from tear gas inhalation. The Israeli military said one soldier was taken to hospital.

The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the two dead as Sanad Abu Atiyyeh, 17, and Yazeed Al Saadi, 23.

Although the Palestinian Authority runs parts of the occupied West Bank and co-ordinates with Israel on security, it has had little control around Jenin in recent years and it is not uncommon for Israeli soldiers to come under fire in the city and refugee camp.

The Jenin refugee camp was the scene of one of the deadliest battles of the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, in April 2002 when Israeli forces fought Palestinian militants in the camp for nearly three weeks. Twenty-three Israeli soldiers and at least 52 Palestinians, including civilians, were killed, according to the UN

In a separate incident later in the day, a Palestinian man stabbed a 28-year-old Israeli man on a bus in the West Bank before being killed by a bystander, the Israeli military said. The Magen David Adom emergency service said the stabbing victim of the attack at Neve Daniel junction south of Jerusalem was treated and taken to a hospital.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said Nidal Jaafara, 30, was shot and killed near the West Bank town of Bethlehem, apparently referring to the stabbing incident.

Videos online on Thursday showed smoke rising from the centre of the Jenin refugee camp as gunfire echoed in the background. Others appeared to show Israeli soldiers and Palestinian gunmen moving through the narrow streets.

The Health Ministry said that tear gas fired near Jenin Government Hospital, where some of those wounded in the clashes were being treated, wafted into the facility and caused "confusion".

Last year, clashes in the Al Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem escalated into 11 days of bloody conflict between Israel and the Hamas militant group that controls the Gaza Strip.

Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian leaders have held a series of meetings in recent weeks, and Israel announced a series of goodwill gestures in an effort to maintain calm ahead of the holy month, which begins this weekend.

Gaza's ruling Hamas issued a statement decrying the deaths in the West Bank and promised to escalate its "confrontations with the occupation" in reference to Israeli forces. The secretary general of Islamic Jihad, Ziad Al Nakhala, said that the Gaza Strip-based group's armed wing would step up activities "in light of the storming of Jenin camp by the Zionist enemy army".

In Tuesday’s attack, a Palestinian man, 27, from the West Bank village of Yabad, gunned down five people. On Sunday night, a shooting attack by two ISIS sympathisers in the central city of Hadera killed two police officers. Last week, a combined car-ramming and stabbing attack in the southern city of Beersheba – also by an attacker inspired by ISIS – killed four. The two attacks claimed by ISIS were carried out by Arab citizens of Israel.

President Joe Biden spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday. Mr Biden expressed his condolences after the recent attacks and said the US “stands firmly and resolutely with Israel in the face of this terrorist threat and all threats to the state of Israel,,” the White House said.

Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem in the war of 1967. Palestinians seek to end Israel's rule of those territories and build an independent state on the land.

Peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians have been frozen for years.

Mr Bennett is opposed to a Palestinian state, and instead has pursued a policy of economic easements for Palestinians.

Separately, early on Thursday, far-right Israeli Knesset member Itamar Ben-Gvir visited Al Aqsa compound, the third holiest site in Islam and revered by Jews as the site of two ancient temples. The move was seen as provocative and the politician taunted Hamas over the visit. "All night Hamas threatened me and said that I was in the line of fire and told me not to come here, I say to the Hamas spokesman, 'shut up'," he said.

— Additional reporting by agencies

Updated: March 31, 2022, 10:49 AM