Israeli troops kill five Palestinians in West Bank raids

Israeli-Palestinian violence has continued during a days-long operation in the West Bank

Palestinians clash with Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Nablus on April 13. EPA

Five Palestinians have now been shot dead by Israeli forces since Wednesday, after two more people were killed in the occupied West Bank town of Jenin, the Palestinian health ministry has said.

"Two youths died of injuries sustained in an Israeli attack in the Jenin district," the ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

The Israeli army said it had been "continuing recent counterterrorism activities" in response to a wave of terror attacks in Israel, with security operations now entering their sixth day.

The five deaths, in separate incidents, were the latest in a wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence that has erupted as Muslims mark Ramadan.

In two cases, the Israeli military said its troops fired at suspects who threw Molotov cocktails at soldiers during West Bank operations.

A total of 20 Palestinians and 14 Israelis have been killed since March 22, including assailants in anti-Israel attacks and Israeli police, according to an AFP tally.

Palestinian officials said one of the recent victims, lawyer Mohammed Assaf, 34, just happened to inadvertently drive into a battle zone in the northern West Bank town of Beita.

The other was the boy, 14, killed by Israeli army fire in Husan, a village near Bethlehem, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

The teen’s death is likely to draw international criticism of Israeli military tactics.

This week, the fatal shooting of an unarmed Palestinian woman drew accusations from European officials that the military was using excessive force.

Murad Shtaiwe, a Fatah party spokesman, said Mr Assaf was driving relatives to school.

They passed through an area where clashes were taking place and Mr Assaf was fatally shot, Mr Shtaiwe said.

“What happened today is a new crime,” he said.

Israeli police also said that in a joint security operation with the army and Shin Bet intelligence agency, troops arrested four suspects in the town of Silwad, near Ramallah.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said Muhammad Alyan, 20, died after he was shot in the chest during the Israeli arrest raid.

The Israeli military did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said at least 18 others were injured as a result of the Israeli military’s raids.

The military said one soldier was slightly wounded in the clashes and that it arrested 20 people in its raids on Wednesday.

Israel has sent troops to comb through Palestinians cities and villages in recent days, looking for suspects or accomplices tied to recent Palestinian attacks on Israelis.

Last week, a Palestinian gunman opened fire on a packed Tel Aviv bar, killing three before fleeing the scene, sparking an hours-long manhunt that ended in police killing him.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s office accused Israel of destabilising the West Bank, saying the situation “has become dangerous and sensitive and is rapidly deteriorating".

On Wednesday, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Hafez said Cairo strongly condemned Israel’s West Bank operations and what he called excessive force against Palestinians.

Mr Hafez called for “containing such growing and accelerating developments", which could lead to further escalation and violence.

The tension has escalated as Muslims mark Ramadan, which this year converges with major Jewish and Christian holidays, Passover and Easter.

In the coming week as those holidays begin, tens of thousands from the three faiths are expected to stream into Jerusalem’s Old City, the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a frequent flashpoint for violence.

Unrest in Jerusalem during last year’s Ramadan escalated into an 11-day war between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza.

In the Gaza Strip, Palestinian militant groups called on residents of the West Bank and Israel to camp out at Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque this weekend.

After meeting Hamas’s Gaza leader Yehiyeh Sinwar, the factions called for mass protests to break the Israeli restrictions recently imposed on the city of Jenin.

They said militants in Gaza were on alert “and ready to take the necessary decisions to protect our land, people, and holy sites".

Israel’s government has sought to lower the flames by moving ahead on its plan to ease restrictions on Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip during the holy month.

But with two of the attackers in the recent violence hailing from Jenin and the surrounding area, Israel has tightened restrictions on movement in and out of the city.

Jenin is considered a stronghold of Palestinian militants. Israeli troops often come under fire when operating in the area.

Even the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the occupied West Bank and co-ordinates with Israel on security matters, appears to have little control.

Israel has made several arrests in recent days and in some cases, Palestinians have protested against the raids. Several Palestinians have been killed in the raids or in response to attacks or attempted attacks.

Late Saturday, Palestinian protesters set fire to a West Bank shrine revered by Jews and Muslims, and smashed part of the the tomb inside.

On Wednesday, Israel carried out repairs to the site, known as Joseph’s Tomb, and a day earlier the military said it arrested a suspect linked to the arson.

The military said clashes also broke out near by as repairs were under way.

Updated: April 14, 2022, 9:51 AM