Israeli troops kill four Hamas militants in West Bank raids: military

Reuters

Israeli troops killed four Hamas militants in gun battles during raids on Sunday against one of the group’s cells in the occupied West Bank, an Israeli military spokesperson said.

Israeli officials have long voiced concern that Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, intends to gain strength in the West Bank and challenge its rival there, the Western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA), heightening security risks for Israel.

The incidents in the early hours of Sunday marked the most serious confrontations between Israel and Hamas in the West Bank in months and threatened to raise tensions in the territory and along the Israeli border with Gaza.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah party lost control of Gaza to Hamas in internal fighting in 2007, accused Israel in a statement of “field executions against our people.”

Hamas called on Palestinians in the West Bank “to escalate resistance against the occupier in all areas” in the wake of the raids. A Hamas spokesman said all the men were members of the group, which Israel and the West regard as a terrorist organization.

An Israeli military spokesperson said troops carried out five raids in the West Bank “in order to stop a Hamas terrorist organization cell from operating” and launching attacks.

“Three Hamas terrorists were killed in crossfire in the village of Biddu, southeast of Ramallah” in the central West Bank, the spokesperson said. “During the attempted arrest of a wanted suspect in the village of Burqin, a shootout evolved. One terrorist was killed.”

Four others were arrested, the spokesperson said.

The Palestinian health ministry said four Palestinians had been killed in two shootouts in the central and northern West Bank.

En route to New York, where he addresses the U.N. General Assembly on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the operation was aimed against Hamas men “about to carry out terrorist attacks.”

He said the Israeli forces had “engaged the enemy, and we back them completely.”

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