Israeli troops kill 3 Palestinians in West Bank raid
Palestinian Authority denounces the violence, saying it threatens US-brokered peace talks
Palestinians pray next to the bodies of three Palestinians: Yazan Basim, Mahmoud Abu Zena and Hamza Abu Al-Haija, during their funeral at Jenin Refugee Camp in Jenin, West Bank, today. Photograph: EPA
Israeli forces shot dead three alleged Palestinian militants today in a raid on a home in the occupied West Bank to capture a wanted Hamas Islamist militant, Israeli military and Palestinian officials said.
The Palestinian Authority denounced the violence that it said threatened US-brokered peace talks ahead of a looming April deadline set by secretary of state John Kerry.
Nabil Abu Rdainah, spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, urged Washington to take steps “to prevent a collapse” of negotiations.
Palestinian militants fired guns into the air at the men’s’ funeral in the West Bank town of Jenin, scene of the clashes.
Flags from their armed groups draped their coffins and thousands of mourners shouted calls for revenge and chanted against Mr Abbas’s involvement in talks with Israel.
“Where are you Abbas? They killed us while you watched,” was one of the chants heard.
The Israeli military said its forces raided a home in a refugee camp in Jenin where they shot and killed a Hamas militant, Hamza Abu Alhija, after he opened fire.
Two Israeli troops were wounded when he shot at them, they said.
Israeli forces killed two other Palestinians as they confronted protesters throwing petrol bombs and rocks at them during the raid to capture Mr Alhija (24) wanted as a suspect for plotting shootings against Israelis, the military said.
Lieutenant colonel Peter Lerner, a military spokesman, called Mr Alhija “a ticking bomb” involved in previous attacks who was also plotting additional shootings under the direction of Hamas Islamists in control of the Gaza Strip.
Lieut col Lerner scaled back an initial death toll from four as the military had reported earlier.
Hamas rejects Israel’s existence and opposes Mr Abbas’s negotiations with the Jewish state.
Palestinian officials confirmed three militants had been killed, Mr Alhija from Hamas and one each from Islamic Jihad and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which is linked to Mr Abbas’ Fatah movement.
News of the killings ignited new concern for the fate of Israeli-Palestinian talks for Palestinian statehood in territory captured in a 1967 war, already beset by a crisis over Israel’s balking at freeing prisoners Mr Abbas wants released by the month’s end under an earlier Israeli commitment.
Including today’s incident, Israeli forces have killed at least 60 Palestinians and injured almost 900 since the resumption of negotiations last July.
Palestinian government spokesman Ehab Bseisso charged those killed in Jenin had been “murdered in cold blood” by Israel.
In Jenin’s ramshackle refugee camp, the owner of the now bullet-riddled home where Mr Alhija had tried to hide said the troops had arrived at around 2am.