At least four Palestinian suspects were killed in a gun battle with Israeli security forces in the northern West Bank city of Jenin in the predawn hours of Monday morning, Palestinian media reported.
According to the Border Police, the Israeli troops had entered the city on an arrest raid. During the operation, “the force came under heavy fire from close range from a large number of terrorists,” the police said.
“Undercover officers from the Border Police returned fire at the terrorists and neutralized them,” according to police.
Palestinian media reported that four people were killed in the exchange and a fifth was injured. No border guards were reported injured. At least three of the four people killed were identified as belonging to terrorist organizations, one from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and two from Fatah’s military wing, the al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigades.
Jenin governor Akram Rajoub, a former West Bank security chief, disputed the Border Police’s account.
“This was a massacre perpetrated by the Israeli occupation. All the accounts disseminated by the occupation are falsehoods,” Rajoub told the official Palestinian Authority broadcasting station.
The target of the arrest raid in Jenin was said to be Muhammad Abu Zina, who was detained in the operation. The Shin Bet security service declined to comment on the record.
According to an Israeli security official, Abu Zina had worked with the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups to plan attacks in the West Bank in the past.
“He had recently been in contact with Hamas operatives in Gaza seeking to bring about terror attacks inside Israel,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Video footage from Jenin showed part of the gun battle. Shots can be heard, though it is not clear from the footage who fired them. An ambulance is then seen arriving, taking at least one of the injured suspects away.
The Islamic Jihad’s military wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, acknowledged that one of the people killed, Nour Jarrar, was a member of the organization, distributing a photograph of him aiming an assault rifle.
“The blood of our martyrs will not be spilled in vain,” the Al-Quds Brigades said in a statement.
Two other suspects killed in the shootout — 19-year-old Ra’ed Abu Seif and 21-year-old Saleh Amar — were identified as being members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
The fourth person killed, Amjad Husseineh, was later claimed by the Hamas terror group as one of its members. Hamas said Husseineh had perished during “heroic fighting at dawn in Jenin.”
“The blood of the heroic martyrs in Jenin and in every quarter of Palestine is the fuel that lights our torches on the path to freedom, the end of the occupation, and the expulsion of its settlers,” Hamas said in a statement on Monday afternoon.
According to Palestinian media, two of the men were taken to a hospital in Jenin where they were pronounced dead, while two died on the scene and their bodies were taken into custody by Israeli security forces. As a matter of policy, Israel does not immediately return the remains of slain terrorists.
The Border Police said they were aware of the Palestinian reports of five casualties, but refused to comment further.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas denounced the four deaths, warning that similar Israeli actions could further escalate an already tense West Bank.
“We express the presidency’s strong anger and condemnation toward this heinous crime. The continuation of this Israeli policy will lead matters to explode, and to more tension and instability,” Abbas spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeineh said in a statement.
Abbas’s Fatah faction declared a general strike in Jenin, and many are expected to attend the funerals later on Monday of the two Palestinians whose bodies are in the local residents’ hands.
The Hamas terror group celebrated what it deemed to be the “martyrs’ pure blood.”
“This heroic act of the revolutionary youth in the resurgent West Bank will not stop unless the occupation is expelled,” said Hazim Qasim, a Hamas spokesperson.
The exchange came amid heightened tensions in the West Bank and in the city of Jenin specifically.
According to the United Nations, some 57 Palestinians have died during confrontations with Israeli soldiers this year, the highest toll since 2016. Some were killed during violent clashes with troops, while others died in more ambiguous circumstances.
Earlier this month, another suspected terrorist — Dia al-Sabarini, 25 — was fatally wounded in a gun battle with Israeli troops in Jenin, dying of his injuries last Wednesday. Five other Palestinians were wounded in those same clashes after Israeli troops entered Jenin in an arrest raid, according to Palestinian medics.
Israeli police said at the time that members of its counterterrorism unit, known by its Hebrew acronym Yamam, “neutralized a number of terrorists” who had opened fire at troops. Forces came under “massive fire” during the operations, and the attackers also hurled explosive devices, Molotov cocktails and rocks at the troops, police said.
Overnight Israeli arrest raids in West Bank towns are frequently met with fierce resistance from local Palestinians — mostly in the form of rock-throwing and Molotov cocktail attacks — though the use of live gunfire against troops is rare.