JERUSALEM: Israeli forces killed several Palestinians, including a 60-year-old woman, and wounded others during a raid in a flashpoint area of the occupied West Bank on Thursday, Palestinian health officials said, in one of the deadliest days in months of unrest.
The violence occurred in what Palestinian health officials described as a fierce operation in the Jenin refugee camp, that has been a focus of nearly a year of Israeli arrest raids.
The Palestinian armed groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad said their gunmen were battling troops who had swept into Jenin refugee camp, while numbers of casualties are still rising.
The Israeli military said forces were operating in the area but did not immediately provide any other details. Israeli media reported troops came under fire during the raid.
Palestinian Health Minister May Al-Kaila said paramedics were struggling to reach the wounded amid the fighting. She also accused the military of firing tear gas at the pediatric ward of a hospital, causing children to choke. The military had no immediate comment.
Jenin hospital identified the woman killed as Magda Obaid. The Palestinian Health Ministry earlier identified another one of the dead as Saeb Azriqi, 24, who was brought to a hospital in critical condition after being shot, and died from his wounds. The ministry said at least 16 people were wounded.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, condemned the violence, calling on the international community to speak out against it.
Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have soared since Israel launched the raids last spring, following a spate of Palestinian attacks that killed 19 people, while another round of attacks later in the year brought the death toll to 30.
Thursday’s violence brings the number of Palestinians killed this year to 25. Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed last year, making 2022 the deadliest since 2004, according to the Israeli rights group B’Tselem.
Israel says most of the dead were militants. But youths protesting the incursions and others not involved in the confrontations have also been killed.
Israel says the raids are meant to dismantle militant networks and thwart future attacks. The Palestinians say they further entrench Israel’s 55-year, open-ended occupation of lands they seek for their future state.
Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war, territories the Palestinians claim for their hoped-for state.