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At least 11 Palestinians killed, 100 wounded in Israeli raid in the West Bank

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 2/22/2023 Miriam Berger, Shira Rubin
Palestinians clash with Israeli security forces during a raid in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus. © Zain Jaafar/AFP/Getty Images Palestinians clash with Israeli security forces during a raid in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus.

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Israeli forces killed at least 11 Palestinians and wounded more than 100 Wednesday in a daytime raid in the West Bank city of Nablus, Palestinian officials said. The operation, the deadliest such raid in years, left Nablus’s Old City riddled with bullets and was another escalation in counterterrorism tactics by Israel under its new far-right government.

Among those killed were a 72-year-old man, a 16-year-old boy and a 66-year-old man who died of tear gas inhalation, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said. Palestinian armed groups said at least six of the dead were members of recently formed, loosely organized militant groups, including the Lion’s Den, the Nablus Brigade and the Balata Brigade, based in a neighboring refugee camp.

The Israel Defense Forces said that two of its soldiers were injured and that three gunmen were killed, adding that the military was still looking into other Palestinian deaths and injuries.

IDF international spokesman Richard Hecht said the operation targeted two members of the Lion’s Den group and an operative from Islamic Jihad who were planning to carry out attacks against Israelis in the “immediate future.” The army surrounded a home in Nablus’s dense Old City, he said, but the three men inside refused to surrender and exchanged fire with Israeli forces, sparking a gun battle that lasted for hours.

Most of the injured were hit with live bullets, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, which said at least six of those hospitalized were in critical condition.

Soon after Israeli soldiers withdrew, thousands of people gathered in the debris-strewn streets of Nablus for funeral processions, and there were reports of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces in Jenin, Hebron and East Jerusalem.

Palestinian factions across the occupied West Bank called for a general strike and a day of mourning Thursday; in Israel, authorities were on alert for possible retaliatory attacks.

“We will respond,” Lion’s Den said in a statement on Telegram. “The size of the pain that befell Nablus, Israel will swallow twice of it.”

The Israeli military released video showing Palestinians pelting jeeps with what it said were rocks and molotov cocktails as its forces retreated.

Wednesday’s raid followed a similar incursion last month in Jenin, also in the West Bank, when a running gun battle between Palestinian militants and Israeli soldiers killed 10 Palestinians, including a 61-year-old woman.

Hecht said that the two events were particularly violent because of a proliferation of guns in the territory, in parallel with the rise of new Palestinian militant groups.

‘Guns are everywhere’ in Israel, occupied territories as violence spikes

“In Nablus and Jenin, the amount of weaponry is overwhelming,” Hecht said.

The U.N. Human Rights Office has said Israel’s intensifying raids raise “serious concerns of excessive use of force” and has called for investigations into deadly operations.

Israeli soldiers and settlers have killed at least 60 Palestinians, including militants and civilians, since the start of 2023, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. At least 11 Israelis have been killed this year in attacks by Palestinians, including seven in a mass shooting outside a synagogue in January.


Since a spate of deadly Palestinian attacks inside Israel last spring, the Israeli military has been conducting near-daily raids across the West Bank, mostly in the middle of the night to arrest militants it says are involved in, or planning, violence. Palestinians say the raids have inspired more people, many of them young and impoverished, to take up arms.

Israel has struggled to control the resurgence in the West Bank of Palestinian fighters, who are organizing locally outside traditional political parties, disillusioned by the failure of negotiations to end the decades-long Israeli occupation.

The rise in violence has coincided with the election of the most right-wing government in Israel’s history; it includes settler activists who have pushed for an expansion of settlements, harsher policies against Palestinians and the de facto annexation of the entire West Bank.

Palestinians clash with Israeli forces during a raid in Nablus in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Wednesday. © Raneen Sawafta/Reuters Palestinians clash with Israeli forces during a raid in Nablus in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Wednesday.

Nablus and the neighboring Balata camp have long been hot spots for militancy against Israel and opposition to the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, which is based in Ramallah. A crisis is looming over who will replace aging Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose power is on the wane after spending the last 17 years in office without holding elections.

The Lion’s Den emerged in Nablus’s Old City last year, started by young men from the neighborhood, many of them from families affiliated with Fatah, the political party that has historically dominated the West Bank and the Palestinian Authority, said Jamal Tirawi, a Fatah leader from the Balata refugee camp.

Over time, the group received funding from Fatah’s main rival, Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, but remains “unaffiliated,” he said.

Similar to the Lion’s Den, the Balata and Nablus Brigades also have attracted young fighters with mixed allegiances, Tirawi said. Many have loosely aligned themselves with Islamic Jihad, which rejects politics in favor of violent resistance to Israel.

What unites the members of these armed groups, he said, “is the loss of hope in their future,” frustration with the Palestinian leadership and anger at escalating Israeli violence.

After a lone-wolf Palestinian attacker killed three Israelis, including two young children, in a car ramming attack this month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would legalize nine outposts in the West Bank that were not previously authorized by the Israeli government. All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.

Palestinians carry the body of Hossam Selim after he was killed in clashes with Israel troops in the West Bank city of Nablus. © Majdi Mohammed/AP Palestinians carry the body of Hossam Selim after he was killed in clashes with Israel troops in the West Bank city of Nablus.

As tensions ramped up, Israel and Hamas exchanged fire overnight. Hamas fired six rockets into Israel, which responded by striking a weapons factory and military compound in the Gaza Strip, the Hamas-controlled coastal enclave under an Israeli-led blockade.

On Thursday, the United States said it was “deeply dismayed” by Israel’s plans, which also include the construction of thousands of additional buildings in approved settlements.

“Settlement, construction and expansion in the heart of the West Bank to include the legalization of outposts creates facts on the ground that undermine a two-state solution,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

But over the weekend, the U.N. Security Council canceled a vote on a resolution scheduled for Monday to condemn Israeli settlement expansion. Instead, the United Arab Emirates put forward a draft that would “garner consensus” in light of efforts by the Biden administration to lower tensions and avoid a public diplomatic showdown.

On Wednesday evening, though, Hussein al-Sheikh, the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, a group dominated by Fatah, said the Palestinian leadership would “go to the United Nation’s Security Council to request international protection ... in light of the continuing crimes of the occupation.”

Rubin reported from Tel Aviv. Hazem Balousha in Gaza City contributed to this report.


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