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JABA, West Bank (AP) — At least three Palestinian militants were killed in a shootout with Israeli troops on Thursday, the latest deaths in a surge of Israeli arrest raids in the occupied West Bank.
Israeli security forces said they raided the village of Jaba in the northern West Bank to arrest suspects wanted for attacks on Israeli soldiers in the area. The suspects opened fire on Israeli troops, who shot back and killed three people, all affiliated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group, police said.
The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the men as Sufyan Fakhoury, 26, Nayef Malaisha, 25 and Ahmed Fashafsha, 22, and said they were shot by Israeli fire during the military operation. It said a fourth man was hospitalized with a bullet wound to the head in stable condition.
Israeli police released a photo of assault rifles, pistols, ammunition and other items they said troops confiscated in Jaba, just south of the flashpoint city of Jenin. The militant group said the men had shot at Israeli forces from their car. Residents gathered around and inspected the smashed sedan, its seats covered with blood. Jaba’s city center already displays a car charred from an earlier Israeli military raid this year that killed two other militants from the village.
The Jaba militant group, a fledgling militia of disillusioned young Palestinians who have taken up guns against Israel’s occupation, said it opened fire and hurled explosive devices at Israeli forces. It said Israeli troops killed its commander, Fakhoury, a former prisoner incarcerated by Israel, during the raid. It also claimed gunmen shot down an Israeli drone during clashes with the army. The Israeli military confirmed a drone was downed and said it was investigating the incident.
The Jaba armed group includes gunmen from various factions, including Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the armed offshoot of the nationalist Fatah party. Militants in the village say that Islamic Jihad supports the group and provides members with weapons.
The group is part of a larger trend of emerging armed groups across the West Bank that have been mounting shooting attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians and opening fire during Israeli raids on their towns, defying the increasingly unpopular Palestinian Authority. In areas of the northern West Bank where much of the fighting has been focused, the PA’s control is receding as young Palestinians’ hopes dim for statehood.
The hardscrabble streets of Jaba teemed with young Palestinians in black chanting against the Israeli occupation and firing into the air as they held the bodies of those killed aloft.
“Everyone’s in shock, everyone’s angry,” said Yousef Hammour, a 28-year-old in the funeral procession. “I’m at a loss for words.”
This year has been marked by escalating violence across the West Bank, as Israeli military raids spiral into protracted firefights with armed Palestinians.
Earlier in the week, at least six Palestinians were killed in an Israeli raid in the Jenin refugee camp. The Palestinian Health Ministry said that 14-year-old Walid Nasser died Thursday from wounds suffered in Tuesday’s raid.
At least 74 Palestinians, around half of them militants, have died in Israel’s raids in the West Bank since the beginning of the year. During the same time 14 people, all but one of them civilians, were killed in Palestinian attacks against Israelis.
Israel captured the West Bank, along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, in the 1967 Mideast war, territories the Palestinians seek for their future state. In the decades since, more than 500,000 Jewish settlers have moved into dozens of settlements, which the international community considers illegal and an obstacle to peace.
Associated Press writers Ilan Ben Zion and Isabel DeBre in Jerusalem contributed to this report.
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