Seven killed by Israeli forces in West Bank


Israel's army said Friday it killed at least seven militants in two separate confrontations in the West Bank, as Hamas admitted a number of its fighters were slain amid growing violence wracking the occupied territory.

Since the October 7 Hamas attacks on southern Israel, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of clashes in the West Bank, where the Israeli army has stepped up incursions targeting militant groups.

Israeli forces carried out an operation overnight Thursday-Friday in a refugee camp in Jenin, a city in the northern West Bank long considered a centre of militant activity.

"In total, at least five terrorists were killed," an army statement said.

Elsewhere, in the south of the West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry said two people were killed "by Israeli army bullets" at the entrance to the flashpoint city of Hebron.

The Israeli army said "two assailants arrived in a vehicle at a junction adjacent to Hebron and fired at the soldiers who were operating in the area".

"The soldiers responded with fire and killed the assailants" before seizing a weapon, a statement said, adding there were no Israeli casualties.

In Jenin, Hamas said three of its fighters had been killed in the raid -- the third major Israeli incursion in the area in as many weeks.

On Friday morning, AFP journalists saw a funeral procession for three people, trailed by dozens of mourners and militants firing into the air.

The Palestinian health ministry in Ramallah also said three people had been killed in the Jenin raid and 15 wounded, four of them critically.

- Exchange of fire -

The Israeli army said "an armed terrorist cell that fired at Israeli security forces was struck by a (military) aircraft".

"Terrorists who fired and hurled explosive devices at the security forces were neutralised," a statement added.

The military said "terrorists and gunmen fled the area in vehicles and ambulances toward the area of the Ibn Sina Hospital in Jenin in order to hide there", and that a vehicle was stopped at the hospital entrance.

It released footage which appeared to show weapons being removed from a vehicle outside a hospital.

Israel consistently says Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip are using hospitals as a base for their attacks, a charge the Islamist group routinely denies.

Hamas gunmen nearly six weeks ago surged out of Gaza and killed 1,200 people -- mostly civilians -- and seized around 240 hostages, according to Israel.

In retaliation for the attacks, Israel launched bombardments and a ground offensive against Hamas in Gaza, which authorities in the Hamas-run territory says have killed at least 11,500 people, mostly civilians.

An incursion last week in Jenin resulted in 14 Palestinian deaths -- according to the health ministry -- in the deadliest single raid in the West Bank since at least 2005, according to United Nations data.