The Hamilton Spectator
10 Palestinians killed, scores hurt in Israel West Bank raid
Operation comes as new settlements reportedly OK’d by Israeli officials
Israeli troops on Wednesday entered a major Palestinian city in the occupied West Bank in a rare, daytime arrest operation, triggering fighting that killed at least 10 Palestinians and wounded scores of others.
The raid, which reduced a building to rubble and left a series of shops riddled with bullets, was one of the bloodiest battles in nearly a year of fighting in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Two men, ages 72 and 61, were among the dead, and 102 people were wounded, Palestinian officials said.
The Israeli operation, coupled with the high death toll, raised the prospect of further bloodshed. A similar raid last month was followed by a deadly Palestinian attack outside a Jerusalem synagogue, and the Hamas militant group warned that “its patience is running out.”
In a move that could further raise tensions, Israel’s West Bank settler organization said that Israeli officials had approved construction of nearly 2,000 new homes in West Bank settlements. The Israeli government did not immediately confirm the decision, which came just two days after the UN Security Council approved a watered-down statement opposing settlement construction.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Wednesday that the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory “is at its most combustible in years,” calling Israel’s operation in Nablus that left 10 Palestinians dead and more than 80 injured “deeply concerning.” He urged stepped-up efforts to prevent the further escalation of violence, reduce tensions and restore calm.
The Israeli military said it entered Nablus on Wednesday to arrest three wanted militants suspected in previous shooting attacks in the West Bank, including the killing of an Israeli soldier last fall.
The military usually conducts raids at night in what it says is a tactic meant to reduce the risk of civilian casualties. It said it took advantage of a rare window of opportunity after intelligence services tracked down the men in a hideout and warned they posed an imminent threat.
The army said it surrounded the building and asked the men to surrender, but instead they opened fire. When one of the militants tried to flee the building, he was shot and killed, said Lt.-Col. Richard Hecht, a military spokesperson. The military then fired missiles at the house, he added, leaving it in ruins and killing the other two men.
A recently formed armed group based in the Old City of Nablus called the Lion’s Den, which has surged in prominence over the past months, confirmed the militants were its members.
During the raid, the military said armed men in the city “shot heavily toward the forces,” which responded with live fire. It said others hurled rocks and explosives at the troops. The military released a video taken from inside an armoured vehicle as crowds of Palestinian youths pelt it with stones. There were no Israeli casualties.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that the situation ‘is at its most combustible in years’