Israel raids West Bank, 2 Palestinians killed in gunbattle

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli forces raided a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, setting off a gunbattle in which two Palestinians were killed and 15 were wounded, as Israel targeted what it said were militant networks after a series of deadly attacks.

In a separate incident, a Palestinian stabbed a 28-year-old Israeli man on a bus in the West Bank before being killed by a bystander, the military said. The Magen David Adom emergency service said the stabbing victim was treated and taken to a hospital.

Videos circulated online showing smoke rising from the center of the Jenin refugee camp as gunfire echoed in the background. Others appeared to show Israeli soldiers and Palestinian gunmen moving through the narrow streets.

The raid came two days after a Palestinian from a village near Jenin shot and killed five people in central Israel, part of a wave of attacks in recent days that have left a total of 11 people dead.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said 17-year-old Sanad Abu Atiyeh and 23-year-old Yazid al-Saadi were killed on Thursday. It said 30-year-old Nidal Jaafara was shot and killed near the West Bank town of Bethlehem, apparently referring to the stabbing incident.

The Israeli military said troops came under fire after entering Jenin to arrest three suspects linked to Tuesday’s attack. It said one soldier was wounded and evacuated to a hospital for treatment. The army said it has arrested a total of 31 suspects in recent West Bank raids aimed at preventing more attacks.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office later Thursday announced it was spending about $56 million in emergency funding for more police officers and equipment.

“A strong police equals a strong Israel,” Bennett said in a statement. “We are operating all means and on all fronts to restore security and a feeling of safety to the people of Israel.”

The Jenin refugee camp was the scene of one of the deadliest battles of the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising. In April 2002, Israeli forces fought Palestinian militants in the camp for nearly three weeks. Twenty-three Israeli soldiers and at least 52 Palestinians, including civilians, were killed, according to the U.N.

The Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the occupied West Bank and coordinates with Israel on security matters, appears to have had little control over Jenin in recent years. Israeli forces operating in and around the city and refugee camp often come under fire.

The Islamic Jihad militant group announced a “general mobilization” of its fighters after Thursday’s raid.

In Tuesday’s attack, a 27-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank village of Yabad, near Jenin, methodically gunned down victims, killing five. On Sunday night, two Islamic State group sympathizers shot and killed two police officers in the central city of Hadera. Last week, a combined car-ramming and stabbing attack in the southern city of Beersheba — also by an IS-inspired attacker — killed four. The two attacks claimed by IS were carried out by Arab citizens of Israel.

President Joe Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday to express his condolences, saying the U.S. “stands firmly and resolutely with Israel in the face of this terrorist threat and all threats,” according to the White House.

The recent wave of violence has brought the conflict with the Palestinians back to the fore at a time when Israel is focused on building alliances with Arab states against Iran. There have been no serious Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in more than a decade, and Bennett is opposed to Palestinian statehood.

Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian leaders have held a flurry of meetings in recent weeks, and Israel has announced a series of goodwill gestures, in an effort to maintain calm ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins this weekend.

They hope to avoid a repeat of last year, when clashes in Jerusalem set off an 11-day Gaza war. After a Security Cabinet meeting late Wednesday, Israel decided to carry on with plans to ease restrictions on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

Israel captured east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 Mideast war, territories the Palestinians want for a future state. Israel annexed east Jerusalem in a move not recognized internationally. In the West Bank, it is steadily building and expanding Jewish settlements, which most of the internationally community views as illegal.

Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, and the Palestinian militant group Hamas seized power there two years later. Since then, Israel and Hamas have fought four wars and Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade on the territory, which is home to more than 2 million Palestinians.

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Associated Press reporters Areej Hazboun and Tia Goldenberg in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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