Israeli soldiers killed two Palestinians, including an Islamist Hamas fighter, during a raid on a refugee camp in the West Bank on Sunday, according to emergency workers and Hamas, while Israeli strikes pounded security stations in Gaza for a second day.
According to witnesses, Israeli forces attacked the Nur Shams camp outside the West Bank city of Tulkarm early Sunday morning, sparking an hours-long fire war with Palestinian fighters.
The Israeli military said it conducted “counterterrorism activity” in the camp, dismantling an operational command centre equipped with computers and surveillance cameras and uncovering dozens of explosive devices and bomb-making components.
“During the activity, suspects opened fire and hurled explosive devices at the forces, who responded with live fire. Hits were identified,” the military said in a statement, adding that an Israeli soldier was moderately wounded.
Hamas, which has been extending its reach away from its base in Gaza and into the West Bank, said one of the men who were killed, 21-year-old Osaid Abu Ali, was a member of its armed wing.
The family of the other man, 32-year-old Abdel-Rahman Abu Daghash, said he had stepped on to the roof of his house to observe what was going on when he was killed by a sniper.
“He went up to the rooftop to film the ambulances. He barely had the chance to look and the sniper targeted him,” said his brother Mo’men Abu Daghash. “He has nothing to do with it and he has kids and his wife is about to give birth.”
There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.
Violence in the West Bank has raged for more than a year, with stepped-up Israeli military raids, increased settler assaults on Palestinian villages, and a spate of Palestinian attacks on Israelis.
In the Nur Shams camp, residents took stock of rubble-strewn roads and buildings damaged during an operation that witnesses said lasted around six hours.
The military said special engineering vehicles dug up roads in the camp, uncovering a large number of concealed bombs and setting off at least one roadside bomb.
For much of the year, the turmoil in the West Bank has overshadowed the situation in Gaza, the blockaded coastal enclave run by Hamas, but in recent days groups of youths have held violent protests along the separation fence, throwing stones and improvised explosives and launching incendiary balloons towards Israel.
On Sunday, at least five Palestinians were wounded in clashes with Israeli forces, the health ministry said.
By late afternoon, the Israeli military said it conducted a second day of strikes against Hamas checkpoints in Gaza close to where rioters threw an explosive device towards its soldiers. There was no word on any casualties.
In a separate incident, the Israeli military said it had detained eight students from Bir Zeit University in the West bank whom it described as wanted suspects linked to Hamas, and whom it said planned to carry out an attack in the immediate future.