At Least 10 Palestinians Killed During Israeli Raid in West Bank

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At least 10 Palestinians were killed and more than 100 others wounded on Wednesday, Palestinian officials said, in an hourslong gun battle between Israeli security forces and armed Palestinian groups in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The firefight occurred during an operation to arrest Palestinian gunmen based in the city of Nablus, the Israeli military said.

Three armed Palestinian groups said that six victims were fighters in their movements. Others appeared to be noncombatants: Time-stamped CCTV footage from late Wednesday morning that circulated on social media seemed to show the shooting of at least two unarmed Palestinians as they ran away from gunfire.

Asked for comment, the Israeli military said that it was looking into the video. The military acknowledged that Israeli forces had killed three gunmen and fired at other armed Palestinians during riots that followed the raids.

The violence left the region braced for further unrest in the coming days, with Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip, warning that the killings would not pass “without a response.”

Militant groups in Gaza often fire rockets into Israeli airspace after violence in the West Bank, actions that typically then prompt Israel to strike Gaza, raising the risk of a full-scale air war in the blockaded territory. Israeli raids are also often followed by reprisals from lone Palestinian gunmen; in January, a Palestinian shot dead seven Israelis in Jerusalem, the day after an Israeli raid in the West Bank city of Jenin killed 10 Palestinians.

A recent spasm of violence in Israel and the West Bank has stoked fears that tensions may further escalate.

The deaths on Wednesday brought the number of Palestinians killed in the occupied West Bank since the start of the year to nearly 60, most of them during shootouts that the Israeli military says began during operations to arrest Palestinian gunmen.

That toll marks the deadliest start to a year for Palestinians in the West Bank in the past decade and a half, prompting comparisons with events at the start of this century, when a Palestinian insurgency, known as the second intifada, left roughly 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis dead.

At least 11 Israelis have also been killed by Palestinians since the start of the year, including the seven in the mass shooting on Jan. 27 by the Palestinian in East Jerusalem — the deadliest attack in the city since 2008.

A spokesman for the Israeli Army, Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, said that the bloodshed on Wednesday began after its forces entered Nablus to arrest members of the Lions’ Den, a local armed group that was planning imminent assaults and that was also responsible for an attack that killed an Israeli soldier in October while he was patrolling a nearby part of the northern West Bank.

Colonel Hecht said that a four-hour gun battle broke out when three suspects started firing on Israeli forces who had come to apprehend them from a safe house in central Nablus.

He said that one of the three was killed after emerging from the building, while the two others were killed inside. During the exchange, Israeli soldiers fired anti-tank missiles at the building, Colonel Hecht said.

Unrest broke out across the center of Nablus on Wednesday, video and photographs showed, with Palestinians throwing stones at Israeli military trucks, and Israeli forces firing tear gas. The Israeli military and the police both separately said that their forces had shot at other armed people who approached them during the operation.

Three Palestinian armed groups issued contradictory statements that competed to assert connections with some of the slain fighters. The Lions’ Den claimed responsibility for six of the 10 victims, while the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, another armed group affiliated with Fatah, the dominant Palestinian movement in the West Bank, said that three of those six were members of its group. Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a third armed group, claimed responsibility for two of the six.

Jockeying for influence, Palestinian groups sometimes issue competing claims over people killed during clashes with Israel, while Lions’ Den is known to contain fighters who originated from both Fatah and Islamic Jihad.

Hiba Yazbek and Gabby Sobelman contributed reporting