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Israeli troops ‘kill at least nine' in West Bank raid

Majdi Mohammed and Tia Goldenberg, Associated Press

Israeli forces have killed at least nine Palestinians, including a 60-year-old woman, during a raid in a flashpoint area of the occupied West Bank, Palestinian health officials said.

It marks one of the deadliest days in months of unrest.

The violence happened during what Palestinian health officials described as a fierce operation in the Jenin refugee camp, a militant stronghold of the West Bank that has been a focus of nearly a year of Israeli arrest raids.

The conflict spiked this month, with 29 Palestinians killed since the start of the year.

Israeli military vehicles are seen during an army raid in the West Bank city of Jenin on Thursday January 26 2023
Israeli military vehicles are seen during an army raid in the West Bank city of Jenin on Thursday January 26 2023 (Majdi Mohammed/AP)

It was not immediately clear how many of those killed on Thursday were affiliated with armed groups.

The fighting came weeks into Israel’s new government, its most right-wing, which has pledged to take a hard line against the Palestinians and ramp up settlement construction on lands the Palestinian seek for their hoped-for state.

It also comes days before US secretary of state Antony Blinken is set to arrive in the region and push for steps that might improve daily life for the Palestinians.

The Israeli military said it was conducting an operation to arrest a militant grouping linked to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which has a major foothold in the camp.

A gun battle erupted, during which the military said it was targeting militants involved in planning and carrying out attacks on Israelis.

At least one of the dead was identified by Palestinians as a militant.

Palestinian health minister May Al-Kaila said paramedics were struggling to reach the wounded amid the fighting.

She also accused the military of firing tear gas at the paediatric ward of a hospital, causing children to choke.

The military had no immediate comment.

Jenin hospital identified the woman killed as Magda Obaid.

The Palestinian Health Ministry earlier identified another one of the dead as Saeb Azriqi, 24, who was taken to hospital in a critical condition after being shot and died from his wounds.

And the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade — an armed militia affiliated with Fatah, the secular political party controlling the Palestinian Authority, claimed one of the dead, Izz al-Din Salahat, as a fighter.

The ministry said at least 20 people were hurt.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, condemned the violence, calling on the international community to speak out against it.

Akram Rajoub, the governor of Jenin, said the military prevented medical teams from evacuating the wounded and fired tear gas which seeped into the government hospital, affecting infants and interrupting surgeries.

“We ask that the international community help the Palestinians against this extremist right-wing government and protect our citizens,” he said.

The deaths drew condemnation from neighbouring Jordan as well as the militant Islamic Hamas group ruling the Gaza Strip.

The Islamic Jihad branch in the coastal enclave has repeatedly fought against Israel, most recently in a fierce three-day clash last summer that killed dozens of Palestinians and disrupted the lives of hundreds of thousands of Israelis.

Tensions surrounding violence in the West Bank have in the past spilled over to Gaza.

“The response of the resistance to what happened today in Jenin camp will not be delayed,” warned top Hamas official Saleh Arouri.

Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have soared since Israel launched the raids last spring after a spate of Palestinian attacks which killed 19 people, while another round of attacks later in the year brought the death toll to 30.

Thursday’s violence brings the number of Palestinians killed this year to 29.

Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed last year, making 2022 the deadliest since 2004, according to the Israeli rights group B’Tselem.

Israel says most of the dead were militants but youths protesting the incursions and others not involved in the confrontations have also been killed.

Israel says the raids are meant to dismantle militant networks and thwart future attacks.

The Palestinians say they further entrench Israel’s 55-year, open-ended occupation.

Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, territories the Palestinians claim for their hoped-for state, in the 1967 Middle East war.

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