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Israeli Military Kills Five Militants Near Jericho as Violence Spreads

Tel Aviv—Israeli forces said they killed five Palestinian militants during an operation targeting Hamas members in the Aqbat Jabr refugee camp near Jericho, the second such deadly raid in little over a week as violence escalates in the occupied West Bank. 

Israel’s military said it raided the camp to arrest two Palestinian suspects who last month attempted to carry out a shooting attack at a nearby restaurant frequented by Jewish Israelis, but their weapons malfunctioned and they fled. Israel’s military said they were hiding out in the refugee camp with the help of family and locals, and had continued to declare their intentions to carry out an attack. 

Since a series of deadly attacks by Palestinians inside Israel last spring, the Israeli military has been engaged in a prolonged operation against Palestinian militants in the West Bank, leading to one of the deadliest periods in over a decade and a half. 

Fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants has largely taken place in the northern West Bank, which has a history of militancy. Monday’s raid near Jericho, which is located in the south, suggests the violence could be spreading. 

Hamas, the Palestinian militant group and governing authority of Gaza, has remained quiet in the West Bank through much of the recent fighting. However, Israeli security officials said the two suspects from the botched restaurant attack were Hamas members, and the Islamist group also said some of its members were engaged in the gunfight on Monday with Israeli forces.  

The group’s “battalions will continue its operations with all the revolutionaries from our people,” said Hamas leader

Ismail Haniyeh,

in a statement on Monday. “No international or regional interventions will succeed in stopping the revolutionary tide of our people.”

The Palestinian Authority, which governs most Palestinians in the West Bank, condemned the Israeli raid near Jericho, saying it would harm international efforts to halt the violent escalation in the West Bank. 

The deadly operation near Jericho comes a little over a week after an Israeli military raid to capture militants in the northern West Bank city of Jenin left 10 Palestinians dead, in one of the bloodiest single-day operations in the West Bank in years. 

The day after the raid in Jenin, a 21-year-old Palestinian gunman opened fire outside a synagogue, killing seven people and injuring another three, in the deadliest attack in Jerusalem since 2008. The next morning, a 13-year-old Palestinian Jerusalemite shot and injured two Israelis. Israeli authorities described the shootings as acts of terrorism. The attacks were praised by Palestinian leadership and sparked celebrations across the West Bank and Gaza.

At least 146 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces in 2022 in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, the highest toll since 2004, according to the Israeli human-rights group B’Tselem. So far this year, at least 40 Palestinians have been killed, according to a tally by The Wall Street Journal.

Israeli officials say they are contending with weakened Palestinian security institutions that once helped Israeli forces with intelligence in tracking down terror suspects. With the Palestinian Authority’s popular support falling to historic lows, according to recent polls, new armed groups have been able to flourish, and illegal weapons have proliferated in the West Bank, many stolen from Israeli military bases, Israeli security officials said. 

After the raid in Jenin, the Palestinian Authority declared it would cease security coordination with Israel, though it is unclear currently how it is being implemented on the ground.  U.S. officials said they have been trying to get the Palestinian leadership to reverse that decision. 

Write to Dov Lieber at dov.lieber@wsj.com

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