Israeli forces shot dead three Palestinian gunmen on Sunday who opened fire on troops in the occupied West Bank, the army said, in the latest bloodshed in a year-long wave of violence in the region.
The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, an armed branch of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, claimed the men killed were members.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said the men were killed by Israeli fire near the city of Nablus and identified them as 24-year-old Jihad Mohammed al-Shami, 22-year-old Uday Othman al-Shami and 18-year-old Mohammed Raed Dabeek.
The army said it confiscated three M16 rifles from the militants after the shooting and that a gunman turned himself in and was arrested.
Sunday’s deaths bring to 80 the number of Palestinians killed since the beginning of the year, as Israel has intensified detention raids in the West Bank. A spasm of Palestinian attacks on Israelis has killed 14 people in 2023.
The new violence follows an Israeli military raid last week on the West Bank village of Jaba, which killed three Palestinian militants. Hours later, a Palestinian gunman opened fire on a busy Tel Aviv thoroughfare at the start of the Israeli weekend, wounding three people before they were shot dead.
The current round of violence is one of the worst between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank in years. It began last spring after a series of Palestinian attacks on Israelis sparked near-nightly Israeli raids on the West Bank.
Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and east Jerusalem in 2022, making it the deadliest year in those areas since 2004, according to leading Israeli rights group B’Tselem. Palestinian attacks on Israelis during that same time killed 30 people.
The army says most of the Palestinians killed were militants. But young people who threw stones in protest against the incursions and others who did not participate in the clashes have also been killed.
Israel says the raids are essential to dismantle militant networks and prevent future attacks. But the attacks seem to intensify rather than subside.
The Palestinians see the incursions as a tightening by Israel of its 55-year indefinite occupation of the lands they seek for their future state.
Israel captured the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war. The Palestinians seek those territories for their future independent state.