by David Gritten
Israeli forces have shot dead four Palestinians during an undercover raid in the city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian officials say.
Israel’s military said troops killed two militants wanted for “terrorist activities” and a person who tried to attack them with a crowbar. They also exchanged fire with gunmen, it added.
The Palestinian health ministry said the dead included a 16-year-old boy.
Another 20 Palestinians were wounded by gunfire, four of them seriously.
Israeli raids in the West Bank have become increasingly deadly since the start of the year, with both gunmen and civilians killed, as a wave of deadly Palestinian attacks targeting Israelis has continued.
More than 80 Palestinians – militants and civilians – have been killed by Israeli forces, and on the Israeli side, 13 people have been killed in Palestinian attacks, all civilians, except for a paramilitary police officer.
Thursday’s operation in Jenin saw special forces from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Shin Bet security service and Border Police enter the city centre in the middle of the day.
A witness said they arrived in two cars and stopped in the middle of a street.
“They opened the doors, and one of them shot Nidal Khazem in his head,” Ahmed Khalaf told Reuters news agency.
“The other man, our brother Youssef Shreim from [Hamas’s military wing, the Izzedine] al-Qassam Brigades, tried to run away,” he added. “The special forces ran after him, and they started firing randomly in the street.”
“A teenager, aged 16, was killed. He was not involved in anything. He worked at a family business.”
A video from the scene showed a man, lying on the ground and apparently already badly wounded or dead, being shot in the head at close range.
In another video, a crowd is seen throwing stones at a car being driven by Israeli forces. Multiple shots are then heard and the crowd runs away.
The Palestinian health ministry confirmed the deaths of Khazem and Shreim, who were senior figures in the militant groups Islamic Jihad and Hamas. It also identified the teenager as Omar Awadin and the fourth person who was killed as Luay al-Zughair, 37.
The IDF said that Khazem and another wanted militant, whom it named as Youssef Abu Ashrin, were targeted in the raid. It was not clear if the latter was Youssef Shreim.
It alleged that Khazem had been involved in “significant terrorist activity”, and that Abu Ashrin had produced explosives and fired at Israeli soldiers.
A spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned what he called the “brutal murder” of four Palestinians.
“These continuous Israeli aggressive actions confirm that Israel is not at all interested in calming the situation and preventing its eruption,” Nabil Abu Rudeineh said.
Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, called the killings a “crime” that would not go unanswered, while Islamic Jihad vowed to make Israel “pay the price”.
The raid comes days before officials from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Jordan and the US are due to hold talks in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh with the aim of de-escalating tensions ahead of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.