Israeli forces on Monday said they killed armed fighters during a raid on the Aqabat Jabr Palestinian refugee camp near the city of Jericho.
The overnight raid was aimed at capturing suspected Hamas militants following an attempted attack on the nearby Israeli settlement of Vered Yeriho last month, the military said.
“Tonight, there was a joint activity of the IDF and Shin Bet in the Aqabat Jaber refugee camp near Jericho. In the process, a number of armed terrorists were killed who opened fire against IDF forces, who carried out searches and arrests,” the military said, on the Twitter account of the Israeli Defence Forces.
The post, which was accompanied by a photo of weapons seized, did not say how many militants were killed, but Israeli security officials told Associated Press there were five deaths, including two people wanted in connection with the attempted attack.
Jihad Abu Al Assal, the governor of Jericho and the Jordan Valley, said the Israeli military was holding on to the gunmen’s bodies. Without access to the bodies, the Palestinian Health Ministry did not immediately confirm the deaths, saying only that three were injured, one of them critically.
Hamas said all five of those killed were members of its armed wing. It said the violence would be met with a response.
“Our people and their resistance will not delay in responding to this crime,” spokesman Hazem Qassem said.
The violence happened in one of the deadliest periods in recent years in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and in the first weeks of Israel’s new government, its most right-wing yet. The administration has promised to take a tough stance against Palestinians.
The military said an attempted attack on a restaurant in Vered Yeriho on January 28 failed when a weapon malfunctioned. It said the two would-be attackers, who fled the scene, were members of the Hamas group that rules the Gaza Strip and has a presence in the West Bank.
Israeli forces raided the Aqabat Jabr camp on Saturday and made several arrests after partially demolishing a home to force those inside to surrender. Six Palestinians were reported wounded in an exchange of gunfire during the raid.
In Monday’s operation, a gun battle broke out when troops encountered militants hiding in a home in the Aqabat Jabr camp, the military said. Several of the gunmen who were killed were involved in the attempted attack on the restaurant, it said.
The Israeli military has blocked access to roads into Jericho since January 28, placing the Palestinian city under a semi-blockade.
Israel's military has carried out months of raids in the occupied West Bank after a spate of deadly attacks inside Israel last year. Forces have been put on high alert after a Palestinian gunman killed seven people near a synagogue in East Jerusalem on January 27.
With reporting from agencies