Israeli forces kill 2 Palestinians in West Bank raid


Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinians in a pre-dawn raid Sunday in the West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry said, as the army confirmed "counter-terrorism" activity in the occupied territory.

Violence has surged in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since early last year, particularly in the West Bank, where eight Palestinians have now been killed in Israeli incursions since Tuesday.

"Two Palestinians were killed by live Israeli bullets to the head" in the town of Tulkarem, the ministry said.

The army said one of its soldiers was "moderately injured by gunshot fragments" during clashes in the Nur Shams refugee camp near the town.

The Palestinian health ministry identified the two killed as Osaid Abu Ali, 22, and Abd al-Rahman Abu Daghash, 32.

Ibrahim al-Nimer, a representative of the Palestinian Prisoners' Club advocacy group in the camp, said the "two were civilians."

"The army entered the camp after 2:00 am... and demolished streets and some houses in the camp," Nimer told AFP.

The army said it had dismantled an "operational command centre" inside a building and uncovered a large number of explosive devices.

"During the activity, suspects opened fire and hurled explosive devices at the forces, who responded with live fire," the army said in a statement.

- Surge in army raids -

Recent months have seen a surge in such military raids and a rise in Palestinian attacks on Israelis, as well as an increase in West Bank settler attacks against Palestinians.

In early July, the Israeli army carried out its biggest raid in years on the Jenin refugee camp in which at least 13 Palestinians were killed, including militants and children.

One Israeli soldier was also killed in that raid, but by Israeli fire "following an incident of mistaken identification," the army said days later.

The Jenin raid had also targeted several explosives-manufacturing facilities, the army said of the July operation that left much of the camp charred and in rubble.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since the Six-Day War of 1967.

Excluding annexed east Jerusalem, the territory is now home to around 490,000 Israelis who live in settlements that are considered illegal under international law.

The Palestinians, who seek their own independent state, want Israel to withdraw from all land it occupied in the Six-Day War and to dismantle all Jewish settlements.

However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's hard-right government has pushed forward settlement expansion. The coalition includes settlers such as the extreme-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

- Violence in Gaza -

Unrest has also surged in recent days in the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip, where Palestinians have been holding daily protests that have turned violent along the border with Israel.

On Saturday, the Israeli army carried out a drone strike after violent protests in which three Palestinians were wounded by Israeli fire.

The strike was one of a series that have come amid protests at the border by Palestinians after Israel closed the Erez crossing, the only one for pedestrians into Israel from Gaza.

Saturday's strike targeted "a military post belonging to the Hamas terrorist organization," the army said, referring to the Palestinian militant group that controls the Gaza Strip.

Since September 13, six Palestinians have been killed and nearly 100 wounded during violence at the border, according to figures from the Hamas health ministry in Gaza.

Israel has imposed an air, land and sea blockade on the impoverished Palestinian coastal enclave ever since Hamas seized control in 2007.

At least 241 Palestinians have been killed in the Israel-Palestinian conflict so far this year.

The bloodshed has also seen 32 Israelis, a Ukrainian and an Italian killed over the same period, according to an AFP tally based on official sources on both sides.

They include, on the Palestinian side, combatants as well as civilians and, on the Israeli side, mainly civilians including minors and three members of the Arab minority.

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