Israeli Troops Kill 5 Palestinians 09/27 06:02
JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israeli troops conducted a series of arrest raids against
suspected Hamas militants across the occupied West Bank early Sunday, sparking
a pair of gun battles in which five Palestinians were killed and two Israeli
soldiers were seriously wounded.
It was the deadliest violence between Israeli forces and Palestinian
militants in the West Bank in several weeks. The region has seen an increase in
fighting in recent months, with tensions fueled by Israeli settlement
construction, heightened militant activity in the northern West Bank and the
aftermath of a bloody war between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip
The Israeli military said it had been tracking the Hamas militants for
several weeks and that the raids were launched in response to immediate threats.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the militants were about to
carry out attacks "in real time." He praised the Israeli forces, saying they
acted "as expected. They engaged the enemy and we back them completely."
In a statement, the military said it launched five simultaneous raids and
soldiers opened fire after being shot at in two locations. It said five
militants were killed and several others were arrested.
It also said an officer and a soldier were seriously injured, possibly
inadvertently by Israeli fire.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said two Palestinians were shot dead near
the northern West Bank city of Jenin and three others were killed in Biddu,
north of Jerusalem.
Hamas confirmed that four of the dead, including all three killed in Biddu,
were members of the Islamic militant group. Palestinian officials said a
16-year-old boy was also among the dead, though it was not immediately known if
he was a militant.
The Palestinian Authority, which administers semi-autonomous areas in the
West Bank, condemned the killings and said the Israeli government was "fully
and directly responsible for this bloody morning and the crimes committed by
the occupation forces."
But Hamas also criticized the Palestinian Authority, which maintains
security coordination with Israel in a shared struggle against the Islamic
Hamas spokesman Abdulatif al-Qanou said that recent meetings between
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli officials "encouraged the
occupation again to pursue the resistance."
Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip after seizing it from the Palestinian
Authority in 2007, praised those killed as "heroic martyrs." It called on its
supporters to "devise tactics and means that harm the enemy and drain it with
all possible forms of resistance."
Also Sunday, Israel released Khalida Jarrar, a prominent Palestinian
lawmaker, after nearly two years in prison. Jarrar, a senior figure in the
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, has been in and out of Israeli
prisons for years -- often without being charged.
The PFLP has an armed wing and is considered a terrorist group by Israel and
Western countries, but Jarrar has not been implicated in attacks. She was
sentenced to two years in prison in March for membership in a banned group but
given credit for time already served. She was freed several weeks before her
sentence was to end.
Recent months have seen a rise in violence in the West Bank, with more than
two dozen Palestinians killed in sporadic clashes with Israeli troops and
Many of the clashes have occurred near Beita, a Palestinian village where
residents regularly demonstrate against an unauthorized settlement outpost, and
near Jenin, which is known as a militant stronghold.
Last month, Israeli troops clashed with Palestinian gunmen during a late
night raid in Jenin, killing four Palestinians. Sunday's clashes came a week
after Israel recaptured the last of six Palestinian fugitives who tunneled out
of a maximum-security Israeli prison earlier this month. The escapees were from
Jenin, and two were caught there after an extensive search.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war and has established
dozens of settlements where nearly 500,000 settlers reside. The Palestinians
seek the West Bank as part of their future state and view the settlements as a
major obstacle to resolving the conflict.
Meanwhile in New York, Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met Sunday
evening with officials from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to mark this
month's first anniversary of Israel's relations with the two Arab countries.
The so-called Abraham Accords -- signed under the Trump administration -- have
led to the opening of embassies, the launch of direct flights and a raft of
agreements to boost economic ties.
Speaking to Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani and
UAE Minister of State in the Foreign Ministry Khalifa Shaheen Almarar, Bennett
said he wanted to assure them of continuity of the agreements since he replaced
"We believe in this relationship and we want to expand it as much as
possible," Bennett said.
The Israeli prime minister is to address the U.N. General Assembly's annual
meeting of world leaders on Monday morning.