Nablus residents describe ‘massacre’ after 11 dead in four-hour Israeli raid

Death toll rises to 11 with more than 100 injured as residents describe the destruction wrought by the battle

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Shops were closed in Nablus, Gaza, occupied East Jerusalem and much of the West Bank on Thursday, the day after one of the deadliest Israeli raids in years sparked a four-hour shoot-out on a usually bustling shopping street that left 11 dead and more than 100 wounded.

In Nablus' Old City, shops were riddled with bullets, parked cars were crushed and blood stained the cement ruins. Furniture from the destroyed home was scattered among mounds of debris.

"What happened yesterday in Nablus was a real massacre, like I've never seen before," city resident Allam Ennab, 68, told AFP.

His brother, Anan, had been in the market when the raid began on Wednesday. He died of teargas inhalation.

“We saw and heard everything. We ran for our lives and took cover inside a building,” Mahmoud, a resident of the Old City who witnessed the scenes, told The National.

“Today there is a general strike in the city — not a shop is open. Everyone is waiting to see what comes next.”

The episode might have been terrifying, but Mahmoud says they have become used to such violence.

“You should have been here for the 2002 invasion [intifada] — we’ve since grown accustomed.”

Talaat Ziada, the head of the intensive care unit at Nablus's Rafidia hospital, said his youngest patient was an 11-year-old boy shot in the stomach and leg.

Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip after rockets fired

Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip after rockets fired

"It was a war zone in the Old City and it was also a war zone here," he said. "The corridors and stairs were covered in blood and people were scrambling to check on their relatives."

The shoot-out began in daylight on Wednesday afternoon when Israeli soldiers surrounded a building in central Nablus in a bid to detain three suspects in a previous shooting attack and the killing of an Israeli soldier last year.

The gunmen fired on Israeli soldiers who shot back, drawing in other gunmen. Dozens of young men nearby threw bottles, rocks and Molotov cocktails at soldiers.

By the time the Israeli soldiers retreated four hours later, the three suspects were dead along with eight others and over 80 were being treated in hospitals for gunshot wounds. The Red Crescent said they treated others for smoke inhalation and other wounds bringing the total number of injuries to more than 100. Two Israeli soldiers were "lightly hurt" by shrapnel from other troops' gunfire, the military said.

Two of the victims were customers at a nearby pharmacy, local TV station Al Rahma reported. One of them, identified as Mohammad Albousi, 25, was planning for his wedding. Two of the dead were men over 70.

In a video shared online, a medic pronounced a man dead only to notice the lifeless patient was his father. Elsewhere, an amateur video showed two men, apparently unarmed, being shot as they ran in the street. Military spokesman Lt Col Richard Hecht said the armed forces were looking into it.

A witness who lives a street away from the scene of the raid described seeing Israeli military vehicles blocking Palestinian ambulances trying to reach the wounded.

Palestinian ambulance narrowly escapes Israeli military vehicle during raid

Palestinian ambulance narrowly escapes Israeli military vehicle during raid

Wednesday's death toll was the highest since the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, ended in 2005.

"This is a war against humans and rocks and everything in Nablus," said Nasr Abu Jaish, co-ordinator for the group that represents the major Palestinian political factions in the city.

"They [Israelis] used air power, machine guns, Apache helicopters to surround the homes in the Sheikh Msallam neighbourhood. There's huge destruction to shop owners and car owners."

The raid was a "massacre" that "crossed all red lines", Tayseer Nasrallah, a member of the Fatah ruling party's Revolutionary Council told The National.

Palestinians outside the West Bank joined the general strike in solidarity.

Abdel-Latif Abdu, a vegetable seller in Gaza, kept his shop closed in support of the residents of Nablus.

"They [Israel] can’t divide us. We are all one people and can’t be divided,” he told Reuters.

The Palestinian Health Ministry says this year has so far been the bloodiest in 22 years, since the Second Intifada or uprising between 2000 and 2005. They say 62 Palestinians, including gunmen and civilians, have been killed in 2023 so far. Ten Israelis and a Ukrainian tourist died in Palestinian attacks in the same period, according to Israel's Foreign Ministry.

Updated: February 23, 2023, 2:00 PM