In the latest deadly raid of violence in the occupied West Bank, the Israeli troops on Tuesday killed six Palestinians in Jenin including an alleged militant accused of killing two Israelis.
The Palestinian health ministry said six men had been killed, one aged 49 and the rest in their 20s, in clashes that the army said included soldiers launching shoulder-fired rockets amid ferocious gunfire.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, called the use of rockets in the Jenin refugee camp — the scene of frequent clashes in the northern West Bank — an act of “all-out war,” Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.
Witnesses said Israeli troops entered the camp and surrounded a house as a group of militants fought back, with the army reporting “explosive devices and blocks” were hurled at their soldiers.
An AFP photographer saw thick plumes of smoke rising from the building.
The Jenin Brigade, a militant group in the camp, said on one of their Telegram channels that their gunmen fought “violent clashes” with Israeli forces.
Among those killed was Abdel-Fatah Hussein Khroushah, 49, who the Israeli army called a “terrorist operative” from the Islamist movement Hamas and accused of killing two Israeli settlers in the Palestinian town of Hawara on February 26.
At least 26 Palestinians were wounded during Tuesday’s raid, the Palestinian health ministry said, three of them with serious injuries. The army said two soldiers were lightly wounded.
Sirens rang out Tuesday night in Nir Am, a small Israeli town just a few kilometers from the Gaza Strip, after a rocket was fired from the Hamas-controlled territory, the Israeli military said.
“A rocket launch was identified which seems to have exploded inside the Gaza Strip,” the army said in a brief statement.
It is the most recent in a string of fatal military operations in the Palestinian territory, which Israel has occupied since the Six-Day War of 1967.
After fighting stopped, an AFP journalist who entered the wreckage of the house where Khroushah had been saw blackened walls riddled with bullet holes and entire walls blasted down.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video message troops had “eliminated the abhorrent terrorist,” referring to Khroushah.
“Our brave soldiers acted with surgical precision in the heart of the murderers’ lair,” Netanyahu added. “Whoever harms us will pay the price.”
The Palestinian presidency spokesman Abu Rudeineh said Israel was “responsible for this dangerous escalation which threatens to inflame the situation and destroy all efforts aimed at restoring stability.”
Last month, Israeli and Palestinian officials pledged in a joint statement to “prevent further violence” and “commit to de-escalation” following talks in neighboring Jordan.
On Tuesday, Jordan foreign ministry spokesman Sinan Majali condemned what he called Israeli “aggression,” warning it “will lead to further deterioration (and) widen the cycles of violence.”
Hamas condemned the killing of the six Palestinians, which it said would only make Palestinians “more determined to confront the Israeli occupation and Israeli settler militias.”
Islamic Jihad and Abbas’ Fatah movement issued similar condemnations, but also hinted that Palestinian security forces took part in the fight against Israeli troops.
The Israeli army and Shin Bet domestic security agency said Tuesday they had carried out a separate raid in a refugee camp in the city of Nablus and arrested two of Khroushah’s sons “suspected of aiding and planning in the terror attack.”
Witnesses in Nablus, south of Jenin, said three men had been arrested.
The Israeli raids came amid celebrations for the Jewish holiday of Purim and against a backdrop of rising tensions since the beginning of the year, coinciding with Netanyahu’s hard-right government taking office in December.
Some fear further violence, particularly around Jerusalem’s holy sites during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, which begins in late March, and the Jewish holiday of Passover in April.
The killing of the two settlers — brothers Yagel Yaniv, 20, and Hallel Yaniv, 22 — in Hawara took place hours after the Jordan summit.
Hundreds of rampaging Israeli settlers later torched Palestinian homes and cars in the West Bank town.
Since the start of the year, the conflict has claimed the lives of 71 Palestinian adults and children, including militants and civilians.
Thirteen Israeli adults and children, including members of the security forces and civilians, and one Ukrainian civilian have been killed over the same period, according to an AFP tally based on official sources from both sides.