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More than 14 Palestinians killed as violence flares in West Bank

Published 04/20/2024, 08:11 AM
Updated 04/21/2024, 06:47 PM
© Reuters. Israeli military vehicles maneuver during an Israeli raid, at Nour Shams camp, in Tulkarm, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, April 20, 2024. REUTERS/Raneen Sawafta

By Ali Sawafta and Nidal al-Mughrabi

NUR SHAMS, West Bank (Reuters) -Israeli forces killed 14 Palestinians during a raid in the occupied West Bank on Saturday, while an ambulance driver was killed as he went to pick up wounded from a separate attack by violent Jewish settlers, Palestinian authorities said.

Israeli forces began an extended raid in the early hours of Friday in the Nur Shams area, near the flashpoint Palestinian city of Tulkarm and were still exchanging fire with armed fighters well into Saturday.

Israeli military vehicles massed and bursts of gunfire were heard, while at least three drones were seen hovering above Nur Shams, an area housing refugees and their descendants from the 1948 war that accompanied the creation of the state of Israel.

The Tulkarm Brigades, which groups forces from numerous Palestinian factions, said its fighters exchanged fire with Israeli forces on Saturday.

The West Bank, a kidney shaped area about 100 km (60 miles) long and 50 km wide that has been at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since it was seized by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.

The Gaza war has overshadowed continuing violence in the territory, including regular army raids on militant groups, rampages by Jewish settlers in Palestinian villages, and street attacks by Palestinians on Israelis.

Thousands of Palestinians have been arrested and hundreds killed during regular operations by Israeli army and police since the start of the Gaza war, most members of armed groups, but also stone-throwing youths and uninvolved civilians.

On Saturday, Palestinian health authorities said at least 14 Palestinians, two of whom were identified by Palestinian sources and officials as a gunman and a 16 year-old boy, were killed during the raid, one of the heaviest casualty totals in the West Bank in months. Another man was killed on Friday.

The Israeli military said a number of militants were killed or arrested during the raid, and at least four soldiers were wounded in exchanges of fire.

In a separate incident, the Palestinian health ministry said a 50-year-old ambulance driver was killed by Israeli gunfire near the village of Al-Sawiya, south of the city of Nablus, as he was making his way to transport people injured during the attack on the village.

It was not immediately clear whether he was shot by settlers. There was no immediate comment from the military.

GAZA STRIKES CONTINUE

In Gaza, where fighting has continued despite the withdrawal of most of Israel's combat forces earlier this month from southern areas, the death toll passed 34,000, Palestinian health authorities said on Saturday.

Israeli strikes hit the southern city of Rafah, where over one million Palestinians are sheltering, as well as Al-Nuseirat in central Gaza, where at least five houses were destroyed, and the Al-Jabalia area in the north, health officials and Hamas media said.

In Rafah, a strike hit a house and killed a father, daughter and pregnant mother, Hamas and Palestinian media outlets said. Doctors at the Kuwaiti hospital were able to save the baby, medics said, making the baby the family's only surviving member.

Five other Palestinians were killed in a separate Israeli air strike on the city before midnight, health officials said.

The Israeli military said troops were carrying out raids in central Gaza, where they were engaged in close quarter combat with Palestinian fighters.

Overall, Israeli strikes in Gaza killed 37 Palestinians and wounded 68 over the past 24 hours, Palestinian health authorities said.

© Reuters. Drone view of the damages following an Israeli raid at Nur Shams camp, in Tulkarm, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, April 21, 2024.  REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Rafah is the last Gaza area that Israeli ground forces have not entered in a more than six-month war aimed at eliminating the Islamist Hamas group that rules the enclave, following the Hamas attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7, that killed some 1,200 Israelis and foreigners.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has faced wide international opposition to the plan to attack Rafah, where the military says the last remaining organised brigades of Hamas are located and where the remaining 133 Israeli hostages are believed to be held.

(Nidal al-Mughrabi reported from Cairo, additional reporting by Maayan Lubell and James Mackenzie in Jerusalem, editing by Mark Heinrich, Frances Kerry, Mike Harrison, Sandra Maler and Cynthia Osterman)

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