RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Israeli troops shot and killed two Palestinian militants during a military raid in the occupied West Bank early Saturday, while a third Palestinian died of wounds sustained in a separate Israeli raid nearly two weeks earlier, according to Palestinian medical officials.
The military said its soldiers opened fire in the village of Jaba after gunmen in a passing vehicle shot at them. They said that soldiers later confiscated an M-16 rifle from the vehicle.
The bloodshed raised the number of Palestinians killed in fighting with the Israelis to 12 this year, as deadly fighting in the area from 2022 shows no signs of slowing in the new year.
The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the men as Ezzeddin Hamamrah, 24, and Amjad Khleleyah, 23. Jaba is south of Jenin, a town in the northern West Bank that has seen some of the heaviest fighting in nearly a year of violence.
The Islamic Jihad, a Gaza-based militant group backed by Iran, said the two gunmen killed in Jenin were members of its armed wing. Their bodies were wrapped with the group’s black flags during their funeral.
The Health Ministry also said Samer al-Jaabari, 19, died from wounds he sustained on Jan. 2 in fighting west of Jenin.
Al-Jaabari was injured when Israeli troops stormed a village to demolish the homes of two Palestinian gunmen who had killed an Israeli soldier during a firefight in September. Two Palestinians, including a gunman, were killed during confrontations with Israeli forces that day.
Israel ramped up its military raids last spring after a spate of Palestinian attacks against Israelis killed 19 people. Israel says the operations are meant to dismantle militant networks and thwart future attacks. The Palestinians see them as further entrenchment of Israel’s 55-year, open-ended occupation of land they seek for their future state.
Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank and east Jerusalem in 2022, Israeli rights group B’Tselem reported, making last year the deadliest since 2004.
Israel says most of the dead were militants. But Palestinian stone-throwers, youths protesting the incursions and and others not involved in confrontations also have been killed. Palestinian attacks, meanwhile, killed a total of 31 people last year, according to Israeli figures.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war, along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, territories the Palestinians want for their future independent state. Israel has since settled 500,000 people in about 130 settlements across the West Bank, which the Palestinians and much of the international community view as an obstacle to peace.