Three Palestinians martyred by Israeli undercover unit

The Palestinian ministry announces the martyrdom of three men shot by Israeli forces in Jaba

By
AFP
A Palestinian hurls a stone at an Israeli army vehicle during clashes after Israeli forces killed Palestinian gunmen in a raid, in Jenin in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. — Reuters/File
A Palestinian hurls a stone at an Israeli army vehicle during clashes after Israeli forces killed Palestinian gunmen in a raid, in Jenin in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. — Reuters/File
  • Raid occurs amid Pentagon chief's arrival in Israel for talks. 
  • Palestinian ministry announces seventh death from Tuesday's raid.
  • Since start of the year, conflict claimed lives of 75 Palestinians.


JABA, PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES: Three Palestinians were martyred by Israeli border police in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, the Palestinian health ministry said, with an Israeli official saying the Palestinians fired on the undercover officers first.

The deadly raid came just hours before Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin was due in Israel for talks and after the United Nations urged both sides to end the cycle of violence in the West Bank "immediately".

The Palestinian ministry announced the martyrdom of three men shot by Israeli forces in Jaba, near the flash-point northern city of Jenin.

Israel's far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who is responsible for the border police, praised the undercover officers for "taking out the despicable terrorists, who opened fire at our fighters".

The health ministry identified the dead men as Sufyan Fakhoury, 26, Ahmed Fashafsha, 22, and Nayef Malaysha, 25. It did not provide further details.

Israeli police said special forces accompanied by soldiers had been in Jaba to arrest Palestinians involved in shooting attacks against soldiers in the area, including Fakhoury and Fashafsha. It said the pair were operatives of Islamic Jihad.

"During the operation, shots were fired at the border police undercover officers from the wanted men's car. Border police undercover officers responded with fire, and killed the three armed men in the car," police said, adding that Malaysha was also suspected.

"A number of guns and explosive devices were found in the vehicle," the police statement said.

In a statement, Islamic Jihad condemned Israel for the "heinous assassination" in Jaba.

The Palestinian health ministry announced the seventh death from the Tuesday raid on Thursday — identifying him as Walid Nassar, 14.

Pentagon chief visit

Thursday's raid came just hours before the Pentagon chief was due in Israel for talks, which have been moved from the defence ministry in Tel Aviv to Ben Gurion airport in the face of persistent Israeli protests against the hard-line government that took office in December.

"At the request of the Israeli ministry of defence, the location of Secretary Austin's bilateral meetings Thursday in Tel Aviv with Israeli leaders will be relocated from the ministry of defence to a location near the airport," Pentagon press secretary Brigadier General Pat Ryder said.

A senior US defence official said Israeli officials had "concerns about planned protests near the ministry of defence headquarters" in Tel Aviv.

"The US, of course, supports the right to hold peaceful and nonviolent protests.. and looks forward to productive discussions," the official added.

Nine straight weeks of protests have been held in Tel Aviv by opponents of legal reforms championed by the new government, that would give politicians greater power over the courts. They have drawn tens of thousands of demonstrators.

A Tuesday raid by the Israeli military in Jenin resulted in the deaths of seven Palestinians, including a member of Hamas accused of killing two Israeli settlers last month.

UN Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland said on Wednesday that the "cycle of violence... must be stopped immediately," calling on Israelis and Palestinians "to observe calm and restraint".

The Palestinian health ministry announced the seventh death from the Tuesday raid on Thursday — identifying him as Walid Nassar, 14.

The violence in the West Bank comes against a backdrop of rising tensions since the beginning of the year, coinciding with the tenure of Benjamin Netanyahu's hard-right government that took office in December.

Some observers fear further violence particularly around Jerusalem's holy sites during the holy month of Ramadan, which begins in late March, and the Jewish holiday of Passover in April.

Since the start of the year, the conflict has claimed the lives of 75 Palestinian adults and children, including civilians.

Thirteen Israeli adults and children, including members of the security forces and civilians, and one Ukrainian civilian have been killed over the same period, according to an AFP tally based on official sources from both sides.