JERUSALEM – Israeli forces killed five Palestinians in armed clashes in the occupied West Bank early Sunday, according to Israeli officials. They said the shootings took place during a series of raids intended to thwart a terrorist attack on Israeli civilians.
Two Israeli soldiers were also seriously injured in one of the shootings. The military said it was investigating whether they had been injured by Israeli fire.
The military wing of Hamas, the Islamic group that reigns over Gaza’s coastal territory, has killed three of its operatives. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an extremist group backed by Iran, claimed a fourth as its “martyr.”
The raids took place simultaneously in the Jenin region in the northern West Bank and in a central area between Jerusalem and Ramallah.
Lt. Col. Amnon Shefler, an IDF spokesman, said the nightly raids in five locations were carried out by a secret military unit and special forces from the counterterrorism police. The gunmen who were killed, and four others who were apprehended, were all part of a network plotting terrorist attacks, he said.
Colonel Shefler did not elaborate on these plans, citing operational needs and restrictions. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday that the gunmen “were on the verge of carrying out terrorist attacks in real time”.
“The soldiers and commanders on the ground acted as planned; they engaged the enemy, and we fully support them, ”Bennett added.
The office of President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited control in parts of the West Bank, denounced what it called the “killing” and “executions on the ground” of Palestinians by Palestinian forces. Israeli security. Mr. Abbas, who is highly unpopular, has recently been criticized by Hamas and other Palestinians for his increased engagement and security coordination with the new Israeli government.
Sunday’s events came four months after a fierce cross-border air war between Israel and militant groups in Gaza, when Hamas, the main rival of the Palestinian Authority and nemesis of Israel, presented itself as the defender of the Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Israeli raids also followed the escape this month of six Palestinian detainees, most of them from Islamic Jihad, from a maximum security prison in northern Israel. The Palestinians had celebrated the escape and were disappointed when the last two fugitives were captured a week ago in Jenin, their hometown.
The Hamas leadership in Gaza said in a statement on Sunday that “the blood of martyrs will not be wasted.” Further seeking to destabilize the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank, he called on “the masses of our Palestinian people in the valiant West Bank to step up resistance against the occupier at all points of contact.”
Israel’s chief military spokesperson, Brigadier. General Ran Kochav told state radio that due to Hamas’s losses and its desire to forge links between the West Bank and Gaza, Israel was preparing for possible rocket fire from the coastal enclave ruled by the Hamas. Hamas.
The IDF said the raids took place in Jenin, Kufr Dan, Qabatiya and Burqin in the northern West Bank and in the village of Bidu, northwest of Jerusalem. Islamic Jihad claimed Osama Yasir Soboh, killed in a shootout in Burqin, as one of its members. This is where the two Israeli soldiers were injured. Palestinian Authority officials identified the second Palestinian killed in the Burqin confrontation as 16-year-old Yusuf Soboh.
The three people claimed by Hamas were killed in what the military described as a shootout with anti-terrorism police special forces in Bidu.
Iyad Abuheweila contributed reporting from Gaza.