Home » Six killed as Israel targets militants in West Bank raid

Six killed as Israel targets militants in West Bank raid

by Mahmmod Shar

By Raffi Berg

Five Palestinians, including at least three gunmen, have been killed in a major Israeli raid against a militant group in the occupied West Bank.

A sixth Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli troops who were attacked with stones in a protest against the raid, Palestinian medical sources say.

The operation in the northern city of Nablus targeted the recently formed Lion’s Den group.

The group killed an Israeli soldier in a shooting earlier this month.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had locked down Nablus for the past two weeks amid an intensive search for the killer of an Israeli soldier. Staff Sgt Ido Baruch, 21, was shot dead in an ambush near an Israeli settlement about 8km (five miles) away.

There has been an intensification of violence between Israel and Palestinians in the West Bank in recent weeks amid an ongoing Israeli operation to root out militants following a wave of deadly attacks against Israelis earlier this year.

What will worry the watching diplomatic community, the BBC’s Tom Bateman reports from Nablus, is that this raid also saw exchanges of fire between Israeli troops and members of the official, internationally backed Palestinian security forces.

On entering the city on Tuesday, our correspondent found the road littered with the debris from the overnight clashes – rocks were strewn on the tarmac and fire crews were pumping water over smouldering tyres.

Nablus is now on strike. Shops and restaurants are shuttered along street after street usually busy with markets and children heading out from school, he says, the quiet broken only by the sound of gunmen returning from the funerals still firing into the air.

The Lion’s Den group was formed following near daily arrest raids by Israeli forces targeting militants, concentrated in the northern West Bank. It is believed to number a few dozen members and has carried out, or attempted, attacks around the Nablus area and as far afield as Tel Aviv, according to the Israeli military.

The group had recently defied calls from the Palestinian Authority (PA), which governs Nablus, to give up its weapons in return for becoming part of the official Palestinian security forces.

Base destroyed

The IDF claimed that security forces had targeted an apartment in the center of Nablus’ Old City, which it claimed was being used as the organization’s headquarters and a bomb-making facility.

Young men poured into the streets as Palestinians yelled over loudspeakers for residents to come out and defend the city.

Five Palestinians were killed in a fierce gun battle that broke out between Israeli troops and the Palestinians.

At least three of the deceased have been identified as Lion’s Den members, including the organization’s 31-year-old founder and senior commander Wadi al-Houh. Israeli media claim that all five were associated with it, despite the fact that two of the victims were unarmed civilians.

The other victims in Nablus were identified by the official Palestinian news agency, Wafa, as being Mishaal Zahi Baghdadi, 27, Ali Antar, 26, and Hamdi Sharaf, 35.

Image caption,Thousands attended the funerals of those killed in the raid

According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, the clashes injured more than 20 Palestinians. Israel has not suffered any reported casualties.

During the operation, Israeli soldiers detonated the apartment. According to reports in the area, a building was hit by an anti-tank missile.

Qusai Tamimi, a 19-year-old Palestinian, was also shot dead by Israeli soldiers in the southern town of Nabi Saleh after local youths reportedly threw stones at them in opposition to the Nablus raid.

After 17 Israelis and two Ukrainians were killed by Palestinian and Israeli Arab attackers earlier this year, the IDF launched a larger, ongoing operation called Break the Wave, which included the raid.

Since January, the West Bank and East Jerusalem have seen an increase in violence that has resulted in the deaths of over 100 Palestinians, including militants, attackers, and civilians, making this year one of the deadliest for Palestinians since 2015.


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