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By Jaafar Ashtiyeh with Yasmin Zaher in Jerusalem
Three Palestinians were killed and 12 others were wounded on Friday during an Israeli army raid in Jenin, a stronghold of armed Palestinian factions in the occupied West Bank. News Online
The men were killed when Israeli forces opened fire on a vehicle in which they were, the Palestinian news agency Wafa said.
“Fierce clashes” then ensued in the area, with Israeli troops firing at Palestinians, wounding 12, Wafa reported.
An AFP photographer said a white vehicle riddled with bullet holes was in the area where Israeli forces have stepped up operations in recent months.
The men were identified as Yusef Salah, 23, Baraa Lahluh, 24, and Laith Abu Srur, 24, all from Jenin.
The Islamic group Hamas said Lahluh was one of its commanders in the West Bank and vowed that the killings “will not go unpunished”.
The funerals of the three men took place early Friday afternoon in Jenin in the presence of large crowds and armed Palestinian fighters.
The Israeli army said in a statement that its troops had been conducting an operation in Jenin to search for weapons at two different locations.
The soldiers had come under fire as they arrived at the first location and they retaliated before identifying a suspicious vehicle on the side of the road on their way to the second location, it said.
“Armed assailants inside a vehicle shot at the soldiers, who responded with live fire to neutralise the assailants,” the army said on its Twitter account.
Following an exchange of fire, soldiers found weapons, including two M-16 assault rifles and cartridges at the scene.
- West Bank hotspot –
The Israeli army has ramped up raids in and around the occupied West Bank’s Jenin camp, a stronghold of Palestinian armed factions.
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Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, a prominent TV reporter with Al Jazeera, was shot dead last month in Jenin while she was covering an Israeli army operation.
The Palestinian Authority, Al Jazeera and Qatar, where the channel is based, accused the Israeli army of killing the journalist. Several journalistic probes have also pointed in the same direction.
A Palestinian investigation said the reporter — who was wearing a bullet-proof vest with “press” written on it and a helmet when she was shot — was killed in what it described as a war crime.
Israel has denied the allegations, arguing that she could have been killed by a Palestinian gunman, but later said it could not rule out the possibility that it was Israeli soldiers.
The Israeli army has not yet released its conclusion following an internal investigation.
The Israeli police had launched the internal investigation following an international outcry after Abu Akleh’s coffin was almost dropped when police attacked the pallbearers during her funeral.
On Thursday, the Israeli police closed the probe into violence at the funeral — without however releasing any findings.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said the United States was seeking more information about the probe into the funeral.
“Certainly, to us, typically these investigations — the findings of them — are released publicly,” Price told reporters in Washington.
US President Joe Biden is expected in Israel and the West Bank next month.
© Agence France-Presse. All rights are reserved.
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