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by Jaafar Ashtiyeh with Daniella Cheslow in Tel Aviv
Three Palestinians died Thursday as Israeli forces launched fresh raids into the West Bank flashpoint district of Jenin, a week after a gunman from there went on a deadly shooting spree in Tel Aviv. News Online
Israel has poured additional forces into the West Bank and is reinforcing its wall and fence barrier with the occupied territory after four deadly attacks in the Jewish state that have claimed 14 lives, most of them civilians, in the past three weeks.
A total of 21 Palestinians have been killed in the latest wave of violence since March 22, including assailants in anti-Israel attacks, according to an AFP tally.
In a clash near Jenin on Thursday morning “two youths died of injuries sustained in an Israeli attack,” the Palestinian health ministry said.
Hours later, the ministry announced the death of a 45-year-old Palestinian father of six, who had been “critically wounded by Israeli bullets” the previous day in Beita, south of Nablus. Local sources named the man as Fawaz Hamayel.
The Israeli army said the clashes on Thursday, its sixth straight day of “counterterrorism activities”, saw it come under attack from a crowd in Kafr Dan, a village northwest of Jenin.
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“Dozens of Palestinians violently attacked the soldiers, shot at the forces and hurled IEDs (improvised explosive devices) at them, endangering their safety,” the army said.
“The soldiers responded with live ammunition.”
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has given Israeli forces a free hand to “defeat terror” in the territory which Israel has occupied since the 1967 Six Day War, warning that there would “not be limits” for the campaign.
Palestinian security sources named the two men killed Thursday as Mustafa Abu Al-Rub and Chas Kamamji — a brother of Islamic Jihad member Ayham Kamamji, who was among six prisoners who escaped Israel’s high-security Gilboa prison through a tunnel in September before being recaptured.
- ‘Intensity will increase’ –
A river of mourners flowed through the streets of Silwad, north of Ramallah, for the funeral of Omar Elyan, 20, killed Wednesday with a bullet to the chest by Israeli forces who said he threw a firebomb at troops during an arrest raid.
Some mourners waved the green flags of the Islamist movement Hamas and masked men carried guns as Elyan’s body, draped in a Palestinian flag and a wreath, was borne by the crowd.
Elyan’s father Mohammad told AFP that “my son’s only wish was to become a martyr, just like his whole generation, because they see no future nor a political horizon for them”.
Israeli forces have arrested more than 200 Palestinians since early April, about half of them in the past six days, said the Palestinian Prisoner’s Club, a group which supports those incarcerated.
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Israel’s main focus has been the northern district of Jenin and the town’s refugee camp, a bastion of militant groups.
Israel is seeking to arrest relatives and supporters of the 28-year-old Tel Aviv shooter, Raad Hazem, who was killed after a gun rampage in a popular Tel Aviv nightlife area last Thursday. He has been hailed as a “hero” in his hometown of Jenin.
Israel’s Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev, speaking about the Jenin raids, said “the intensity will only increase”, in comments to border police on Wednesday after touring part of the security barrier.
“What is currently happening in Jenin, specifically the refugee camp, is remarkable,” he said, arguing about militant activity that if “you don’t stop it there, it spreads all over the place”.
Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh on Wednesday charged that Israeli soldiers in the operations “murder for the sake of murder … without the slightest regard for international law”.
The West Bank cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem declared general strikes Thursday in protest at the ongoing Israeli military operations.
The rise in violence comes during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and before the Jewish festival of Passover and Christian Easter.
Last year during Ramadan, tensions in Jerusalem flared into 11 days of war between Israel and Hamas, the militant group that rules the Palestinian enclave of Gaza.
© Agence France-Presse. All rights are reserved.
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