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Israeli forces kill 3 Palestinians in new West Bank violence, days after major offensive

Palestinians carry the body of a man killed during an Israeli military raid in the West Bank city of Nablus, Friday, July 7, 2023. The Palestinian Health Ministry said two men were killed by Israeli fire. The deaths are part of a year-long spiral of violence that shows no signs of abating. (Majdi Mohammed/AP Photo) Palestinians carry the body of a man killed during an Israeli military raid in the West Bank city of Nablus, Friday, July 7, 2023. The Palestinian Health Ministry said two men were killed by Israeli fire. The deaths are part of a year-long spiral of violence that shows no signs of abating. (Majdi Mohammed/AP Photo)
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NABLUS, West Bank -

Israeli forces killed three Palestinians, including two militants shot dead in a gunbattle, in new West Bank violence on Friday, days after Israel concluded a major two-day offensive meant to crack down on militants.

The persistent violence raised questions about the effectiveness of the raid earlier this week in the Jenin refugee camp, which saw Israel launch rare airstrikes on militant targets, deploy hundreds of troops and cause widespread damage to roads, homes and businesses. Twelve Palestinians and one Israeli soldier were killed in the operation.

In the nearby city of Nablus, the West Bank's commercial capital and a flashpoint city, two militants were killed in a gunbattle with Israeli forces. Israel's Shin Bet security agency said the men were behind a shooting attack this week on a police vehicle.

Later Friday, Palestinian health officials said a man was fatally shot in the chest by Israeli forces during a demonstration in Umm Safa, a town in the central West Bank. The army had no immediate comment.

The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the two dead in Nablus as Khayri Mohammed Sari Shaheen, 34, and Hamza Moayed Mohammed Maqbool, 32. Two militant groups, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, claimed them as members.

In the aftermath of the shootout, bullet casings littered the blood-stained ground. Palestinians carried the bodies of the men killed into the hospital, chanting "God is great!" as guns fired into the air.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant praised Friday's operation and said Israel would continue to act to root out militants.

"There will be no loop that isn't closed and there won't be a terrorist who doesn't pay the heaviest price," he said.

Friday's deaths are part of a year-long spiral of violence that shows no signs of abating, despite the fierce Israeli operation this week in the Jenin refugee camp. They follow a shooting on Thursday by a Hamas militant near an Israeli West Bank settlement that killed an Israeli soldier.

Monday's raid in the Jenin refugee camp bore the hallmarks of the second Palestinian uprising, a period of intense violence in the early 2000s that killed thousands. But the current round of fighting remains different from that one, mainly because it is more limited in scope, with Israeli military operations focused on several strongholds of Palestinian militants.

Israel has been staging raids in the West Bank for 16 months, expanding its activities in early 2022 in response to a spate of Palestinian attacks. The northern West Bank, which includes Nablus and Jenin and where the Palestinian Authority has less of a foothold, has been a major friction point.

Over 150 Palestinians have been killed this year in the West Bank, and Palestinian attacks targeting Israelis have killed at least 27 people.

Israel says most of the Palestinians killed have been militants. But stone-throwing youths protesting the incursions and people not involved in the confrontations have also been killed.

Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians seek those territories for their hoped-for independent state.

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