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Israeli forces kill two Palestinians in West Bank raid: ministry

Damage at Nur Shams refugee camp following the Israeli raid
— Tulkarem (Palestinian Territories) (AFP)

Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinians in a raid in the West Bank Sunday, the Palestinian health ministry said, as the army launched new drone strikes on the blockaded Gaza Strip.

Violence has surged in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since early last year, particularly in the West Bank where eight Palestinians have now been killed in Israeli incursions since Tuesday.

"Two Palestinians were killed by live Israeli bullets to the head" during the pre-dawn raid, the ministry said.

The army said one of its soldiers was "moderately injured by gunshot fragments" during clashes in Nur Shams refugee camp near the town of Tulkarem.

The Palestinian health ministry identified the two killed as Osaid Abu Ali, 21, and Abd al-Rahman Abu Daghash, 32.

Palestinian militant group Hamas said that "martyr Osaid Abu Ali" was one of its fighters.

Ibrahim al-Nimer, a representative of the Palestinian Prisoners' Club advocacy group in the camp, told AFP that "the army entered the camp after 2:00 am ... and demolished streets and some houses".

The army said it had dismantled an "operational command centre" inside a building which "contained observation devices, computers and technological devices".

"During the activity, suspects opened fire and hurled explosive devices at the forces, who responded with live fire," it said.

Separately on Sunday, the army said it carried out new drone strikes on the Gaza Strip targeting "two military posts" of the Islamist group Hamas, amid ongoing protests in the enclave.

- Surge in army raids -

An AFP journalist who toured the Nur Shams camp hours after the raid saw that a roof of a building and its walls had fully caved in, as residents inspected the damage.

Several military vehicles had entered the camp during the night, resident Omar Sabhan told AFP.

"The situation was very scary. Snipers were stationed ... and they shot anything that moved," he said.

He added that residents of the camp backed Palestinian "resistance" groups.

"Everyone wants this resistance. This is a legitimate right," he said.

Later on Sunday, crowds of mourners attended the funeral of the two Palestinians.

Israeli forces had raided the same camp on September 5, and a member of the Islamic Jihad militant group had been shot dead at the time.

Recent months have seen a surge in military raids and a rise in Palestinian attacks on Israelis, as well as an increase in Israeli settler attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank.

Israel's army said it had dismantled an 'operational command centre' inside a building which 'contained observation devices, computers and technological devices'

Israel has occupied the West Bank -- now home to some three million Palestinians -- since the Six-Day War of 1967.

Excluding annexed east Jerusalem, the territory is now home to around 490,000 Israelis who live in settlements that are considered illegal under international law.

The Palestinians, who seek their own independent state, want Israel to withdraw from all land it occupied in the Six-Day War and to dismantle all Jewish settlements.

However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's hard-right government has pushed forward settlement expansion.

After a meeting in Beirut, three Palestinian factions -- Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) -- called for increasing "armed resistance" against the "rising Zionist aggression against our people".

The army said that "following a security assessment" it decided to send a battalion to reinforce the Gaza sector.

- Drone strikes in Gaza -

Unrest has also surged in recent days in the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip, where Palestinians have been holding daily protests along the border with Israel.

On Sunday, the army said it launched a new drone strike on Gaza as a protest along the border turned violent.

The Hamas controlled health ministry in Gaza said five Palestinians were injured by "Israeli bullets" during the protest.

Sunday's strike was one of a series that have come amid the protests after Israel closed the Erez crossing, the only one for pedestrians into Israel from Gaza.

Since September 13, six Palestinians have been killed and nearly 100 wounded during violence at the border, according to health ministry figures.

Israel has imposed an air, land and sea blockade on the impoverished Palestinian coastal enclave since Hamas seized control there in 2007.

At least 241 Palestinians have been killed in the Israel-Palestinian conflict so far this year.

The bloodshed has also seen 32 Israelis, a Ukrainian and an Italian killed over the same period, according to an AFP tally based on official sources on both sides.

They include, on the Palestinian side, combatants as well as civilians and, on the Israeli side, mainly civilians including minors and three members of the Arab minority.