Israeli soldiers shot and killed two Palestinians Saturday in an exchange of fire that erupted during a military raid in the West Bank, according to Israeli and Palestinian accounts, in the latest confrontation that has made 2022 the deadliest year of violence in the occupied territory since 2015.
The raid occurred in the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank, the site of repeated clashes between Israeli forces and local gunmen and residents. The camp is known as a stronghold of Palestinian militants and the army often operates there.
Palestinian officials said soldiers entered the camp early Saturday and surrounded a house. In videos circulated on social media, exchanges of fire could be heard. The Palestinian Health Ministry reported two dead and 11 wounded, three of them critically.
The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the dead as Mahmoud al-Sous, 18, and Ahmad Daraghmeh, 16.
The Israeli military said it had arrested a 25-year-old operative from the Islamic Jihad militant group who has previously been imprisoned by Israel. It said the man had recently been involved in shooting attacks on Israeli soldiers.
It said soldiers opened fire during the raid when dozens of Palestinians hurled explosives and opened fire. “Hits were identified,” the statement said, giving no further details.
Just before noontime, the Israeli forces appeared to withdraw from the area.
The killing occurred a day after two Palestinian teenagers, ages 14 and 17, were killed by Israeli fire in separate incidents elsewhere in the occupied West Bank. Rights groups accuse Israeli forces of using excessive force in their dealings with the Palestinians, without being held accountable. The Israeli military says it opens fire only in life-threatening situations.
Israel has been operating throughout the territory, especially in the northern West Bank, since a spate of deadly attacks in Israel last spring. Some of the attacks were carried out by Palestinian assailants from the area.
Israel says it is forced to act because Palestinian security forces, who coordinate with the military in a tense alliance against Islamic militants, is unable or unwilling to crack down. Palestinian security forces say the military raids have undermined their credibility and public support, especially in the absence of any political process. The last round of substantive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks ended in 2009.
Most of those killed are said by Israel to have been militants. But local youths protesting the incursions as well as some civilians have also been killed in the violence. Hundreds have been rounded up, with many placed in so-called administrative detention, which allows Israel to hold them without trial or charge. Over 100 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting this year.
The violence is also fueled by deepening disillusionment and anger among young Palestinians over the tight security coordination between Israel and the internationally backed Palestinian Authority, which work together to apprehend militants.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war and 500,000 Jewish settlers now live in some 130 settlements and other outposts among nearly 3 million Palestinians. The Palestinians want that territory, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, for their future state.