At least 10 Palestinians were killed in fighting with Israeli forces in the West Bank town of Nablus on Wednesday. The particularly deadly incident could further ignite tensions between Israelis and Palestinians in the territories.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said that 10 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire during an Israeli military incursion and over 100 were injured. A 72-year-old man was among those killed, Palestinian officials said.
An Israeli military spokesperson refuted those reports, saying in a statement that Israeli forces entered the old city in Nablus in search of three individuals who were wanted in relation to a previous shooting. One tried to escape and two others opened fire on the Israeli forces. All three were “neutralized,” according to the spokesperson.
Israeli forces also exchanged fire with other assailants during the operation and were attacked with stones, explosive devices and Molotov cocktails, according to the statement. Israel claims that two of the suspects were from the Lions Den armed group, while the third was a member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
There were no casualties among the Israeli soldiers.
Israeli raids typically occur during the wee hours of the morning, but this one took place in the middle of the day.
A spokesperson for the armed group Hamas identified as Abu Obeida said that "patience is running out" in response to the incident.
"The resistance in Gaza is observing the enemy's escalating crimes against our people in the occupied West Bank and its patience is running out," said the spokesperson, reported the Hamas-affiliated Safa news agency.
The confrontations in Nablus come on the backdrop of regional concerns over growing tensions as Ramadan approaches. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government decided a week ago to legalize nine West Bank outposts and to advance the construction of some 10,000 new housing units in existing settlements. Pressured by the United States and the international community, Netanyahu’s office said later on that Israel will not legalize any additional illegal outposts beyond the nine approved in the coming months.
On Monday, the UN Security Council published a presidential statement condemning the settlement expansion moves. Still, the world body did not adopt a binding resolution on the issue, as proposed by the Palestinians and the United Arab Emirates.
An Israeli report Wednesday morning suggested that senior officials from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Jordan and the United States will meet in the coming days in either Amman or Cairo to discuss ways to reduce tensions.
Other reports said that Israel’s national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi recently met and is in constant phone contact with Palestinian Minister Hussein al-Sheikh, who is responsible for relations with Israel.