JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli forces shot and killed three Palestinian militants Sunday who opened fire on troops in the occupied West Bank, the military said, the latest bloodshed in a year-long wave of violence in the region.
The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, an armed offshoot of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party, claimed the men killed as members.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said the men were killed by Israeli fire near the city of Nablus and identified them as Jihad Mohammed al-Shami, 24, Uday Othman al-Shami, 22 and Mohammed Raed Dabeek, 18.
The military said it confiscated three M16 rifles from the militants after the shootout and that one gunman turned himself in and was arrested.
The deaths Sunday bring to 80 the number of Palestinians killed since the start of the year, as Israel has stepped up arrest raids in the West Bank. A spasm of Palestinian attacks against Israelis has killed 14 people in 2023.
The fresh violence follows an Israeli military raid last week on the West Bank village of Jaba, where three Palestinian militants were killed. Hours later, a Palestinian gunman opened fire on a busy Tel Aviv thoroughfare at the start of the Israeli weekend, wounding three people before being shot and killed.
The current round of violence is one of the worst between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank in years. It began last spring after a series of Palestinian attacks against Israelis that triggered near-nightly Israeli raids in the West Bank.
Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and east Jerusalem in 2022, making it the deadliest year in those areas since 2004, according to the leading Israeli rights group B'Tselem. Palestinian attacks against Israelis during that same time killed 30 people.
The military says most of the Palestinians killed were militants. But stone-throwing youths protesting the incursions and others not involved in confrontations have also been killed.
Israel says the raids are essential to dismantle militant networks and prevent future attacks. But attacks appear to be intensifying rather than slowing down.
The Palestinians view the raids as a tightening by Israel of its 55-year, open-ended occupation of lands they seek for their future state.
Israel captured the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians seek those territories for their future independent state.