Three Palestinian gunmen, claimed as members of the Hamas terror group, were killed by Israeli forces while attempting to attack a small Samaritan community in the northern West Bank on Tuesday morning, the military said.
The exchange of fire took place in the Mount Gerizim area, just south of Nablus, and close to the Jewish settlement of Har Bracha. The area is home to a tiny community of Samaritans, known as Shomronim in Hebrew.
According to the Israel Defense Forces, a car with the three gunmen arrived in the area, and two got out and opened fire at troops of the 603rd Combat Engineering Battalion who were guarding an army post at the entrance gate to the Samaritan community.
The IDF said the troops “engaged and neutralized” the gunmen. According to Palestinian media reports, the three were killed.
The Palestinian Authority health ministry said it was notified of the men’s deaths, indicating their bodies were being held by Israeli authorities.
The ministry later named them as Noureddine Tayseer al-Ardah, 32, Montaser Bahjat Ali Salameh, 33, and Saad Maher al-Kharraz, 43.
باعوا الله أنفسهم
وعرفوا الطريق فسلكوه
???? الشهيد القسامي القائد
???? الشهيد القسامي
???? الشهيد القسامي
منتصر سلامة pic.twitter.com/PMZPlf6spU
— عين الخليل ???? (@ain_khalel) July 25, 2023
The military wing of the Hamas terror group later claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the slain gunmen were members.
In a statement, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades said it honors the trio who carried out the attack, calling them “fighters” and “heroes of the heroic Nablus operation.”
Surveillance camera footage from outside the Samaritan community showed the exchange of fire.
Three assault rifles, a handgun, and other military equipment were found in the gunmen’s car, the IDF said.
No soldiers were hurt in the incident.
“We identified a suspicious car that stopped about 200 meters from us. Two of the terrorists got out of the car and started shooting at us,” said Lt. “Yud” — identified only by his rank and first initial in Hebrew — the commander of the forces guarding the community.
“In a quick response, me and my two soldiers returned fire and engaged [the gunmen]. We then identified the third terrorist inside the car,” Lt. Yud added.
The attack came hours after Palestinian terrorists opened fire at a bus carrying Israelis in the West Bank town of Huwara on Monday night, without causing injuries.
During the past year, Palestinian gunmen have repeatedly targeted military posts, troops operating along the West Bank security barrier, Israeli settlements and civilians on the roads.
Earlier this month, Palestinian gunmen opened fire at a store and police cruiser inside the Samaritan community, causing no injuries. The pair accused of carrying out the attack were killed by Israeli forces two days later.
Tensions have remained high in the West Bank for the past year and a half, with the military carrying out near-nightly raids, amid a series of deadly Palestinian terror attacks.
According to a tally by The Times of Israel, 158 West Bank Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the year — most of them during clashes with security forces or while carrying out attacks, but some were uninvolved civilians and others were killed under unclear circumstances.