The Israeli army has launched a large-scale raid on the city of Nablus in the occupied West Bank. The Palestinian authorities speak of at least eleven dead and more than a hundred injured. The action is seen as one of the bloodiest in more than a year. There are fears of a new escalation of violence.
The daylight raid resulted in a full-scale firefight and riot. The Israeli army had closed all entrances to the city with armored vehicles and was looking for three Palestinian terror suspects, the army said in a statement. The trio hid in a building.
According to the army, the building was surrounded and the militants were given a chance to surrender, but opened fire instead. Several militias were involved in the firefight.
Palestinians also threw stones and Molotov cocktails at the Israeli army:
One of the suspects tried to flee from the house and was shot dead by soldiers, Lieutenant Colonel Hecht told the AP news agency. The building was then blasted with rockets. The two other suspects were killed in the process.
Shot at civilians
Neighboring buildings are also riddled with bullets. According to eyewitnesses, the Israeli military had no regard for the civilian population in the area. “We hear stories of Israeli troops firing at neighbors and people in homes,” said a reporter for Al Jazeera news channel.
Security footage, shared online, appears to show two unarmed men on the run being shot. The spokesman for the Israeli army calls these images “problematic” and says it is under investigation.
According to the Palestinian authorities, 102 people have been injured, six of them in critical condition. 82 people are said to have been hit by bullets, but there is uncertainty about the number of civilian casualties. The Palestinian Red Crescent says aid workers have treated at least 250 people who have inhaled tear gas in addition to those with gunshot wounds.
Six of the dead were members of militant groups, the groups themselves have announced. The identity of the other victims is still unknown. According to information from the Palestinian authorities, the oldest fatal victim was 72 years old and the youngest 16 years old.
The Israeli army reports that no soldiers were injured. Normally, these types of raids are carried out in the evening and night. This reduces the risk of civilian casualties. The military says a rare opportunity has now presented itself after intelligence agencies pinpointed the location of the suspects. There would also have been an acute threat.
Hamas, the Palestinian group in power in the Gaza Strip, condemns the invasion of Nablus. There are also threats to the Israeli authorities. “The resistance in Gaza sees the enemy’s escalating crimes against our people in the occupied West Bank, and patience is running out,” a spokesperson told Al Jazeera news site.
The raid could lead to a new outbreak of violence, a source within the Israeli security services told The Jerusalem Post newspaper. Just like last year there were back and forth rocket attacks and bombings between Palestinian groups and the Israeli army.
Spiral of violence
It has been very unsettled in the West Bank for a long time. Last month, Israeli troops killed at least nine Palestinians in a similar operation in the north of the West Bank. Shortly afterwards, at least seven people were killed in an attack near a synagogue in Jerusalem.
2022 was the deadliest year in ages, according to the UN. More than 150 Palestinians and more than 20 Israelis were killed last year in attacks, raids and clashes between the army and Palestinian militias.
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