By JOSEPH KRAUSS
JERUSALEM ( Associated Press) – Israeli forces raided a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank early Thursday and launched a shootout in which two Palestinians were killed and 15 wounded, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said.
In a separate incident, a Palestinian stabbed a 28-year-old Israeli man on a bus in the West Bank before he was killed by a bystander, the Israeli army said. The Magen David Adom emergency service said the stab victim was treated and taken to a hospital.
Videos circulated online show smoke rising from the center of the Jenin refugee camp as gunfire echoes in the background. Others apparently showed Israeli soldiers and Palestinian armed men moving through the narrow streets.
The raid took place two days after a Palestinian from a village near Jenin shot dead five people in central Israel, part of a spate of attacks in recent days that left a total of 11 people dead.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health said 17-year-old Sanad Abu Atiyeh and 23-year-old Yazid al-Saadi had been killed. It is said that 30-year-old Nidal Jaafara was shot dead near the West Bank town of Bethlehem, apparently with reference to the stabbing incident.
The Israeli army said troops came under fire after entering Jenin to arrest suspects. One soldier is said to have been wounded and taken to a hospital for treatment.
The Jenin refugee camp was the scene of one of the deadliest fighting of the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising. In April 2002, Israeli forces fought Palestinian militants in the camp for almost three weeks. Twenty-three Israeli soldiers and at least 52 Palestinians, including civilians, were killed, according to the UN.
The Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the occupied West Bank and coordinates with Israel on security issues, appears to have had little control over Jenin in recent years. Israeli forces operating in and around the city and refugee camp often come under fire.
The Islamic Jihad militant group announced a “general mobilization” of its fighters after Thursday’s raid.
In Tuesday’s attack, a 27-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank village of Yabad, near Jenin, methodically shot dead and killed five. Sunday night, a shooting attack by two Islamic State sympathizers in the central city of Hadera killed two police officers. Last week, a combined car ram and stabbing attack in the southern city of Beersheba – also inspired by an IS-inspired attacker – killed four people. The two attacks claimed by IS were carried out by Arab citizens of Israel.
President Joe Biden spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday. Biden expressed his condolences after the recent attacks, saying the United States “stands firm and determined with Israel in the face of this terrorist threat and all threats to the state of Israel,” the White House said.
The recent spate of violence has brought the Palestinian issue back to the fore at a time when Israel is focused on building alliances with Arab states against Iran. There have been no serious Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in more than a decade, and Bennett is opposed to Palestinian state capture.
Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian leaders have held a wave of rallies in recent weeks, and Israel has announced a series of benevolent gestures, in an effort to maintain calm ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins this weekend.
They hope to avoid a repeat of last year, when clashes in Jerusalem sparked an 11-day Gaza war, but the recent attacks have raised tensions. After a Security Cabinet meeting late Wednesday, Israel nevertheless decided to proceed with plans to ease restrictions on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 Middle East War, territories that the Palestinians want for a future state. Israel has annexed East Jerusalem in a move that is not recognized internationally. In the West Bank, it is constantly building and expanding Jewish settlements, which most of the international community considers illegal.
Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, and the Palestinian militant group Hamas took power there two years later. Since then, Israel and Hamas have fought four wars and Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade in the area, which is home to more than 2 million Palestinians.
Associated Press reporters Areej Hazboun and Tia Goldenberg in Jerusalem contributed to this report.