Israeli troops kill 3 Palestinian militants in the West Bank

JERUSALEM — Israeli security forces killed three Palestinian militants in the occupied West Bank early Saturday morning as they continue...

JERUSALEM — Israeli security forces killed three Palestinian militants in the occupied West Bank early Saturday morning as they continued to step up operations in response to a wave of terror attacks in Israel.

Israel Police said in a statement that the militants were stopped while driving in the northern West Bank, after authorities received word that they were about to carry out an attack. The three men were killed in a subsequent shootout that also injured four Israeli soldiers, police said. The Islamic Jihad militant group later confirmed that three of its members were killed by Israeli security forces on Saturday morning, but did not comment on allegations of a potential attack.

This episode brings to at least six the number of Palestinians killed in Israeli military operations in the West Bank this week. Three more people were killed Thursday morning in an Israeli raid in Jenin, a city in the northern West Bank, Palestinian health officials said.

Israeli security forces have increased their presence in Israel and the occupied territories since a Palestinian gunman killed five people in Bnei Brak, a city in central Israel, on Tuesday. It was the latest in a series of terror attacks in Israel that have killed 11 people since March 22.

The army sent several additional battalions to the West Bank, called up reservists and posted reinforcements along the Israel-Gaza border. Police said they had focused almost exclusively on counter-terrorism operations while stepping up their presence on the streets.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also called on Israeli civilians with licensed firearms to carry their weapons with them in public.

The moves reflect the heightened sense of anxiety in Israel after three unusually brazen and deadly attacks in three Israeli cities that have rarely been at the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Last week, before the Bnei Brak attack, an Arab citizen of Israel stabbed three people and rammed another with his vehicle, killing all four, in Beer Sheva, a quiet town in southern Israel. A few days later, two other Arab citizens of Israel shot two policemen in Hadera, a city on the Mediterranean coast. Unusually, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for this attack.

Officials and analysts fear the violence could escalate in the coming weeks, when the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began on Saturday, will overlap Passover and Easter for the first time in several years.

The festivals are expected to heighten tensions in Jerusalem’s Old City, where access to and control of a holy site sacred to Jews and Muslims – known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary – a long at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Hamas, the Islamist militant group that dominates the Gaza Strip, warned in a statement late Friday that Israel would face “consequences” if it allowed Israeli troops or Jewish worshipers to enter the compound. the Aqsa Mosque atop the Temple Mount. He did not specify what those consequences would be.

Tensions around the mosque – associated with Israeli efforts to expel the Palestinians from a strategic area of ​​the city – prompted Hamas to fire several rockets towards Jerusalem of Gaza in May, leaving an 11 day war. But Israeli officials believe Hamas is most likely wary of staging attacks directly from Gaza, as the group does not want to risk another full-scale escalation in Gaza so soon after the last war.

In a sign of de-escalation, Palestinian political groups in Gaza decided on Wednesday not to commemorate Land Day, a major anniversary in the Palestinian calendar, with a protest near the Gaza-Israel border. Instead, they gathered on the coast, reducing the risk of a confrontation with Israeli border guards.

The Friday evening and Saturday morning prayers at the Al Aqsa Mosque also passed without incident.

Iyad Abuheweila contributed reporting from Gaza City.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Israeli troops kill 3 Palestinian militants in the West Bank
Israeli troops kill 3 Palestinian militants in the West Bank
Newsrust - US Top News
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