At least four Palestinians were killed during an Israeli military raid in the old city of Nablus in the West Bank in the early hours of Tuesday, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
Palestinian protesters took to the streets in response, with a fifth person shot dead by Israeli soldiers in Nabi Saleh, north of the city of Ramallah, the ministry said.
Another 21 Palestinians were injured, four of whom are in serious condition.
A joint statement from Israeli security forces said the raid was conducted on a hideout that was being used as a headquarters and explosives manufacturing site by “operatives of the ‘Lion’s Den’ terrorist group (‘Arin Alousud’).”
It added that the group was “responsible for carrying out the shooting attack that killed the (Israel Defense Forces) soldier Staff-Sargent Ido Baruch, as well as attempting to carry out a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv (an attack that was thwarted by the Israel Police) and the planting of an explosive device in the ‘Kedumim’ gas station.”
It said Israeli security forces had “detonated the explosive manufacturing site,” adding that multiple armed suspects were hit and “dozens of Palestinians burned tires and hurled rocks at the troops” during the operation.
“The (Israeli) troops responded with live fire toward the armed suspects who were shooting at them,” the statement said.
Official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that Israeli forces stormed several neighborhoods in Nablus, “where the sounds of shooting and explosions were heard and columns of smoke and flames were seen emanating from several neighborhoods,” followed by fierce clashes between residents and Israeli military forces.
Wafa also reported that the Israeli military then sent reinforcements backed by drones.
Palestine’s President “is making urgent calls to stop the aggression on our people in Nablus,” said a presidential spokesperson, speaking on Palestinian television early on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Saraya al-Quds, the Armed Wing of Islamic Jihad, released a statement saying their affiliated group the Nablus Brigade were “engaged in violent armed clashes” with Israeli military forces who “stormed the city.”
This is already the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since 2015, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
For months, Israel has been regularly raiding cities in the West Bank, focusing especially on Jenin and Nablus, saying it is targeting militants and their weapon caches before they have the chance to cross into Israel and carry out attacks.
Israel says most killed were engaging violently with soldiers during military operations, but dozens of unarmed civilians have also been killed, according to human rights groups including B’Tselem.