JENIN (Palestinian Territories), March 17 — Israeli forces on Thursday killed four Palestinians including a teenager in the occupied West Bank, the latest deadly raid on Jenin which Israel said targeted “armed suspects”.
Dozens of masked, heavily armed men fired into the air as they paraded through the streets for the funerals of the four dead, including two who Palestinian groups and the Israeli army identified as militants.
The Israeli army initially said troops “neutralised” two suspected militants in the northern West Bank city, accusing them of “terrorist activities”.
An army spokesperson later added that “armed gunmen fired at the forces, the forces responded with live fire.”
One of those killed “was neutralised after attempting to attack the forces with a crowbar”.
The Palestinian health ministry said 23 others had been wounded in the raid, five of them seriously.
It identified those killed as Omar Awadin, 16, Luay al-Zughair, 37, Nidal Khazim, 28 and Youssef Shreem, 29.
Islamic Jihad claimed Khazim as one of its members, and Hamas’ armed wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, said Shreem belonged to their group. The Israeli statement claimed they were both Islamic Jihad members.
In a statement, Islamic Jihad said Israel “will pay the price for these crimes”.
‘Cycle of violence’
Mahmoud al-Saadi of the Palestinian Red Crescent in Jenin told AFP that “an Israeli undercover unit stormed the city centre’s Abu Bakr street”.
The raid comes days before a planned meeting between Palestinian and Israeli officials on Sunday in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh for talks aimed at reducing tensions ahead of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
Islamist movement Hamas, which rules in the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip, called the latest raid a “crime”, warning it will not go “unanswered”.
Israeli forces have launched numerous raids on the city of Jenin and its eponymous refugee camp in recent months targeting Palestinian militants.
These raids have killed more than 20 Palestinians since the start of the year.
Israel has occupied the West Bank since the Six-Day War of 1967.
The United Nations decried “another example of the alarming cycle of violence”, with a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urging “the international community to redouble its efforts to find an end to this cycle of violence.”
Sinan Majali, spokesman for the Jordanian foreign ministry, called for an “immediate stop of the escalation” and stressed “the need to protect Palestinian cities from these repeated and continuous assaults”.
Since the start of the year, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has claimed the lives of 85 Palestinian adults and children, including militants and civilians.
Thirteen Israeli adults and children, including members of the security forces and civilians, and one Ukrainian civilian have been killed over the same period, according to an AFP tally based on official sources from both sides.
On Tuesday, a senior Hamas official warned Israel his group would react to any possible “violations” at Jerusalem’s holy sites during Ramadan, which begins later in March.
Saleh al-Aruri, deputy head of the Hamas political bureau, said the risk of escalation entirely “depends on the Israeli occupation’s violations across Palestine and at Al-Aqsa mosque” located in annexed east Jerusalem.
Al-Aqsa, a Jordan-administered mosque compound, is the third holiest site in Islam. It is built on top of what Jews call the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site. — AFP