By Ali Sawafta JENIN, West Bank (Reuters) -Israeli forces on Tuesday raided a refugee camp in the volatile West Bank city of Jenin, killing at least six Palestinians, including a gunman suspected of shooting two brothers from a Jewish settlement near the village of Huwara last week. Footage circulating on social media showed helicopters over […]
Israeli forces raid West Bank refugee camp, six dead
By Ali Sawafta
JENIN, West Bank (Reuters) -Israeli forces on Tuesday raided a refugee camp in the volatile West Bank city of Jenin, killing at least six Palestinians, including a gunman suspected of shooting two brothers from a Jewish settlement near the village of Huwara last week.
Footage circulating on social media showed helicopters over a column of military vehicles entering Jenin, one of the major centres of armed Palestinian factions in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the individual suspected of the killings in the Jewish settlement, which triggered a violent rampage by settlers against the nearby Palestinian village of Huwara, had been killed by Israeli forces operating “surgically in the heart of the murderers’ den” on Tuesday.
The Israeli military identified him as Abdel-Fattah Kharusha, a member of the Islamist group Hamas, and said his two sons had been arrested in a raid at the same time on the city of Nablus, another centre of militant activity in the West Bank.
Last week, settlers torched dozens of cars and houses in Huwara after two brothers were shot by a presumed Palestinian gunman as they sat in their car at a checkpoint nearby.
The rampage, described as a “pogrom” by a senior Israeli commander, triggered worldwide outrage and condemnation, which was increased when ultra-nationalist Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who has responsibility for aspects of the West Bank administration, said Huwara should be “erased”. Smotrich later offered a partial retraction.
At least 16 Palestinians were wounded in Tuesday’s gun battle, which broke out after Israeli forces surrounded a house in the camp, using shoulder-fired missiles against fighters inside, who returned fire.
At the same time, others in the camp threw stones and explosive devices against the soldiers.
Tuesday’s operation comes after a major reinforcement of Israeli forces in the West Bank following the violence in Huwara, which sits near a major road junction where settlers and Palestinians have frequently clashed.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken overnight reiterated calls for both sides to de-escalate tensions in the West Bank, and the violence is also expected to be raised by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin when he visits Israel this week.
However, there has been no sign of any let up in the violence, ahead of the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the Jewish Passover festival.
MORE HUWARA VIOLENCE
Overnight on Monday, Israeli settlers attacked Palestinians in the village.
Israeli army and border police forces dispersed crowds of what the military described as “a number of violent rioters” in Huwara. Videos shared on social media showed a group of black-clad youths attacking a Palestinian car before its driver manages to pull away.
“My wife was sitting in the back and she hugged our daughter to cover her,” said Omar Khalifa, who had just finished shopping at a supermarket and had got into the car with his family when the assault took place. “We could have lost her, there was real danger to our lives.”
Other footage appeared to show Israeli soldiers dancing together with Jewish settlers in the town on what was the Jewish festival of Purim. “Huwara has been conquered, gentlemen!” a voice is heard saying in Hebrew.
The military did not address a question about the footage of soldiers dancing with settlers when it responded to a request for information on the incident. Nor did it immediately respond to a Reuters query on whether there had been any arrests.
Since the beginning of the year, Israeli forces have killed more than 70 Palestinians, including militant fighters and civilians, while in the same period, Palestinians have killed 13 Israelis and one Ukrainian woman in a series of apparently uncoordinated attacks by individuals.
(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi, Dan Williams and Emily RoseWriting by James Mackenzie Editing by Ed Osmond, Mark Heinrich and Mark Potter)
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