At least five Palestinians were killed and another two seriously wounded in an exchange of fire with Israeli forces near Jericho overnight into Monday, following a week of increased Israeli raids and roadblocks on the generally quiet city.

The five deceased, all young men, were identified as Adham Majdi Aweidat, 22, Thayer Aweidat, 28, Malik Awni Lafi, 22, and two brothers – 21-year-old Raafat Wael Aweidat and 27-year-old Ibrahim Wael Aweidat, according to the Palestinian News & Info Agency.

Jihad Abu al-Assal, the governor of Jericho and the Jordan Valley, said the Israeli military was holding the gunmen’s bodies.

According to a joint statement by the Israeli military and the Shin Bet security service, security forces were in the Aqabat Jabr refugee camp to arrest a militant cell which allegedly attempted to carry out a shooting attack last Saturday at a restaurant frequented by Israeli settlers just south of the city.

The Palestinian gunman had opened fire on customers during business hours and managed to escape with a driver.

The Israeli army launched a days-long effort to find those responsible – calling them Hamas members – and arrested seven suspects during the refugee camp operation.

Hamas said all five of those killed in the arrest raid were members of its armed wing. Hamas spokesman Hazem Qasem said the violence would be met with a response. “Our people and their resistance will not delay in responding to this crime,” he said.

The mayor of Jericho told Haaretz that the two seriously wounded Palestinians were injured in a different part of the city, and not near the apartment where the suspects were located.

Additionally, an IDF drone fell into the area of the refugee camp during the operation, but the Israeli military said that there is no danger of information leakage.

Immediately following the Saturday restaurant shooting, six Palestinians were also wounded in a gunfire exchange with Israeli soldiers in the refugee camp in the West Bank, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

The Israeli army had also placed limits on the exits of Palestinians from Jericho in a bid to find the gunman behind the attack, which residents report has made it difficult to leave the city.

Later, the army announced that the exit barriers had been removed. However, Palestinians who work in the settlements from Jericho were not permitted to come to work on Monday morning.

Approximately 500 people are affected by this decision, which is expected to last one day.

Compared to West Bank cities such as Jenin and Nablus, centers of Palestinian militancy where Israeli raids are the norm, raids in Jericho are much less common. On Monday morning, several Palestinian militant factions warned that Israel “will pay the price,” calling on Palestinian “heroes and revolutionaries” in the West Bank, Jerusalem and within the Green Line to rise up.

According to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the killing of the five Palestinians in Jericho on Monday proves that “the new Israeli government continues the series of crimes against the Palestinian people, and challenges any attempts, including those made by the international community, to curb Israeli aggression.”

“Israel’s crimes are only encouraged by the silence of the international community,” Abbas added.

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Article source: Haaretz | Yaniv Kubovich and Amos Harel | Feb 6, 2023

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000