Israeli forces kill at least 8 Palestinians in surging West Bank violence, health officials say

JENIN REFUGEE CAMP, West Bank (AP) — Israeli forces operating in the occupied West Bank killed at least eight Palestinians, including at least one militant, in a 24-hour period, Palestinian health officials said Sunday, as a fragile pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip entered its third day.

Violence in the West Bank has surged in the weeks since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, setting off a devastating war in the Gaza Strip. Israeli forces have killed dozens of Palestinians and arrested hundreds in the West Bank. Jewish West Bank settlers have also stepped up attacks.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said that five Palestinians were killed in the militant stronghold of Jenin, while three others were killed in separate areas of the West Bank since Saturday morning. One of those killed, in al-Bireh in the central West Bank, was a teenager, the ministry said.

The Israeli military said it killed five Palestinians in a gunbattle during its operation in the Jenin refugee camp, where it was arresting a Palestinian suspected of killing an Israeli father and son at a West Bank car wash earlier in the year.

The military said those killed were militants. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad group claimed one of the men, identified as Asaad al-Damj, 33, as a member, while the remainder were not immediately linked to militant groups. The military said, without specifying further, that it was backed by air power that struck and wounded what it said were armed Palestinians.

The military also said it was looking into the reports of the other incidents.

In the refugee camp, debris was strewn along the streets of the densely populated urban neighborhood and the wall of one house had a large hole in it.

The official Palestinian news agency Wafa said Israeli snipers were positioned on roofs and that military bulldozers were damaging roads and infrastructure. The reports could not immediately be independently verified, but the Israeli military said it was using “engineering equipment” to uncover explosive devices buried under roads.

In its bid to pursue militants, Israel clamped down on the West Bank immediately after the Hamas assault, closing crossings and checkpoints between Palestinian towns.

The intensified violence in the territory follows more than a year of escalating raids and arrests in the West Bank and deadly Palestinian attacks on Israelis. Before the Hamas assault, 2023 was already the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank in over two decades.

Israel and Hamas have briefly halted fire to allow for more aid to enter Gaza and permit a hostage release in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. The Israeli offensive has killed more than 13,300 Palestinians, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza government, which does not differentiate between civilians and combatants. Vast swaths of the Gaza Strip have been flattened and some 1.7 million Palestinians have fled their homes.

In last month’s surprise attack, Hamas and other Gaza militants killed some 1,200 people in Israel and took about 240 hostage. Several dozen soldiers have been killed since Israel began its ground invasion into Gaza shortly after the attack.

Israel captured the West Bank, along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians seek those territories as part of their hoped-for independent state.

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Goldenberg reported from Tel Aviv, Israel. Associated Press writer Samy Magdy contributed to this report from Cairo.

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