NABLUS (Palestinian Territories): Israeli soldiers shot dead three Palestinian gunmen after they fired at troops in the occupied northern West Bank, the army said on Sunday, as violence in the region continued.
The military said that “gunmen opened fire” at an army position near the Jit junction west of Nablus, with the soldiers responding with “live fire”.
“Three armed gunmen were neutralised during the exchange of fire and an additional armed gunman surrendered himself to the forces,“ the army said in a statement, noting none of the Israeli forces were wounded in the clash.
The soldiers, members of the elite infantry Golani reconnaissance unit, grabbed three M-16 rifles and a pistol used by the Palestinians, the army said.
The Palestinian health ministry said it was informed about the deaths of three men killed by Israeli gunfire near Nablus, without providing further details.
The incident took place a short distance from an Israeli settlement, with the head of the regional Samaria settler council praising the army for “taking out the murderous terrorist squad operating in the area.”
“We will continue to live and build here in Samaria and the entire region, the murderous Palestinian Authority terror won’t deter us,“ Yossi Dagan said in a statement, using the name Israel uses for the West Bank, Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967.
Violence intensified last year, but has worsened in the West Bank since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned to office in December in a governing coalition with ultra-Orthodox Jewish and extreme-right allies.
The government of Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption on charges he denies, has vowed to continue the expansion of West Bank settlements.
– Calls for revenge –
On Thursday, a member of the armed wing of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas opened fire outside a Tel Aviv cafe, wounding three men in their 30s before being shot dead.
Hours before, three armed Palestinians were killed in an Israeli military operation in the northern West Bank.
Several Palestinian armed groups had called on Tuesday for revenge for the recent deaths of six Palestinians in an Israeli army raid in the northern West Bank.
The Tel Aviv attack came just hours after Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin had called for de-escalation ahead of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan that starts in March and the Jewish holiday of Passover in April.
Austin, following talks with Netanyahu and his counterpart Yoav Gallant during a brief visit to Israel, also called on the “Palestinian leadership to combat terrorism and to resume security cooperation and to condemn incitement”.
In Beitar Illit, a Jewish settlement in the West Bank southwest of Jerusalem, the army said bomb disposal experts had detonated a suspicious package found on a bus Thursday evening.
A Palestinian from a nearby village was arrested on Saturday for having placed an explosive device on the bus, along with four others suspected of aiding him, the army said.
Since the start of the year, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has claimed the lives of 81 Palestinian adults and children, including militants and civilians.
Twelve Israeli civilians, including three children and one policeman, as well as one Ukrainian civilian have been killed over the same period, according to an AFP tally based on official sources from both sides. – AFP