At least 10 people, including an elderly woman, were killed during a raid by Israeli troops in the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, the Palestinian Health Ministry confirmed.
The Israeli military said an operation was under way in Jenin but did not immediately provide further details. Israeli media reported troops had come under fire during the raid.
The operation in the flashpoint town is the deadliest single Israeli raid in the West Bank in two decades, and prompted the Palestinian Authority to suspend security co-operation with Israel.
A PA spokesman announced the decision at a news conference in Ramallah and said the Palestinians planned to file complaints with the UN and the International Criminal Court.
The raid wounded at least 16, including a child. Four are said to be in critical condition.
Protests later took place in Jenin and Ramallah, while a general strike was called across the West Bank and East Jerusalem in wake of the deaths.
A man died of his wounds after Israeli forces fired live ammunition, stun grenades and tear gas during a protest in the town of Al Ram, near Ramallah, the official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.
At least 30 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces so far this year, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
The latest violence comes as Israel's new government, the most right-wing in the country's history, looks to further entrench settlements in the West Bank and expand Israel's power in the occupied Palestinian territories.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due to visit in the coming days and is expected to push for steps improving the lives of Palestinians.
“With both Israeli and Palestinian leaders, the secretary will underscore the urgent need for the parties to take steps to de-escalate tensions in order to put an end to the cycle of violence that has claimed too many lives,” State Department Spokesman Ned Price said.
He will also discuss “upholding the status quo” at Al Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam.
Barbara Leaf, assistant secretary of state for near east affairs, said the US government was in contact with both sides and encouraging de-escalation.
Palestinian media reported that Israeli troops arrived in a commercial vehicle, while witnesses said the operation took place in a building used as a meeting place for local residents.
Palestinian Health Minister May Al Kaila said the situation was “dire” and paramedics were struggling to reach the wounded amid the fighting.
She also accused the Israeli military of firing teargas at the paediatric ward of a hospital, causing children to choke. The military denied targeting the children's ward, claiming the gas might have entered “through an open window”.
Health workers at the hospital said most of the children had respiratory diseases and a number of premature babies were also on the ward, according to the Palestinian Wafa news agency.
The Palestinian Health Ministry identified one Palestinian man who was killed in clashes as Saeb Azriqi, 24. He was taken to hospital but died from his wounds. Magda Obaid, 60, and Ezzadin Salahat, 26, were also killed.
It said most of the injured had been shot in the head and chest and were shot “with the intent to kill.”
The violence has been widely condemned, including by the GCC, which hit out at “continued Israeli incursions” into Palestinian cities.
The army later said it had “neutralised” three wanted people during the raid, claiming they were involved in planning and carrying out attacks against Israelis.
“Claims regarding additional casualties during the exchange of fire are being looked into,” it said.
Israeli forces cut electricity to the camp and shot at an ambulance, Wafa reported. It also said soldiers prevented paramedics and journalists from entering the area.
Jenin is among Palestinian areas of the northern West Bank where Israel has intensified raids over the past year after local men carried out street attacks in its cities. The violence has further clouded stalled US-sponsored talks on Palestinian statehood.
Palestinian armed groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which are based in Gaza but have members in the West Bank, said their gunmen had been battling Israeli troops on Thursday.
Israel raised the threat level at its border with Gaza following the escalation in violence in the West Bank. The military said it was preparing for the possibility of rocket fire from the Gaza strip following the incidents in Jenin, Israel’s Channel 13 reported. Hamas, which rules the blockaded enclave, said Israel will “pay the price” for the raid.
Tension between Israelis and Palestinians has soared since Israel launched the raids last spring, following a spate of Palestinian attacks that killed 19 people, while another round of attacks later in the year brought the death toll to 30.
Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed last year, making it the deadliest year since 2004, according to the Israeli rights group B’Tselem.
Israel says most of the dead were militants. But youths protesting against the incursions and others not involved in the confrontations have also been killed.
Agencies contributed to this report