Israeli forces have launched a gun battle in a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank.
JERUSALEM – Israeli forces stormed a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank early Thursday, launching a gun battle that killed two Palestinians and wounded 15, the Palestinian health ministry said.
In a separate incident, a Palestinian stabbed a 28-year-old Israeli man on a bus in the West Bank and before he was killed by a passerby, the Israeli military said. Megan David Adam Emergency Services said the stabbing victim had been treated and taken to a hospital.
Videos posted online show smoke billowing from the center of the Jenin refugee camp as gunfire can be heard in the background. Others show Israeli soldiers and Palestinian gunmen moving along the narrow streets.
The operation comes two days after a Palestinian from a village near Jenin shot dead five people in central Israel, part of a wave of attacks in recent days that have killed a total of 11 people.
The Palestinian health ministry said 17-year-old Sanad Abu Atiyeh and 23-year-old Yazid al-Saadi were killed. It said Nidal Zafar, 30, was shot dead near the West Bank town of Bethlehem, apparently referring to a stabbing incident.
The Israeli military says troops opened fire after entering Jenin to arrest the suspects. It said one soldier was injured and taken to hospital for treatment.
The Jenin refugee camp was one of the deadliest battles of the Second Palestinian Intifada or Rebellion. In April 2002, Israeli forces fought Palestinian militants in the camp for about three weeks. At least 52 Palestinians, including 23 Israeli soldiers and civilians, have been killed, according to the United Nations.
The Palestinian Authority, which manages parts of the occupied West Bank and coordinates with Israel on security issues, appears to have had little control over Jenin in recent years. Israeli forces operating in and around the city and refugee camps are often the victims of shelling.
The Islamic Jihad militant group announced a “general mobilization” of its fighters after Thursday’s operation.
In Tuesday’s attack, a 27-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank village of Yabad, near Jenin, systematically shot the victims, killing five. On Sunday night, two police officers were shot dead by two Islamic State supporters in the central city of Hadera. Last week, four people were killed in a joint car-hit and stabbing attack in the southern city of Bersheba – also by an IS-inspired attacker. The two attacks, claimed by IS, were carried out by Israeli Arab nationals.
President Joe Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday. Biden expressed his condolences after the recent attack and said that the United States “stands firm and steadfast with Israel in the face of this terrorist threat and all threats to the state of Israel,” the White House said.
The recent wave of violence has brought the Palestinian issue to the fore again at a time when Israel is concentrating on forging alliances with Arab states against Iran. There has been no serious Israeli-Palestinian peace talks for more than a decade, and Bennett is opposed to a Palestinian state.
Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian leaders have met in recent weeks, and Israel has announced a number of goodwill gestures in an effort to maintain peace ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins this weekend.
They hope to avoid a repeat of last year, when the conflict in Jerusalem began the 11-day Gaza war, but recent attacks have escalated tensions. Following a Security Council meeting late Wednesday night, Israel has decided to move forward with a plan to ease sanctions on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
In the 1967 Middle East war, Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, the territory that the Palestinians want for a future state. Israel occupies East Jerusalem in a move that is not internationally recognized. In the West Bank, it is constantly building and expanding Jewish settlements, which most of the international community considers illegal.
Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, and the Palestinian militant group Hamas seized power two years later. Since then, Israel and Hamas have fought four wars, and Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade of the territory, where more than 2 million Palestinians live.
Ariz Hajbon and Tia Goldenberg, Associated Press reporters in Jerusalem, contributed to this report.