At least three Palestinians were reported killed by Israeli fire during an overnight raid in a northern West Bank refugee camp, Palestinian health authorities said early Monday.
The al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade terror group later released a statement saying the three had been members of the organization. It said they were killed while battling Israeli forces.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said at 3 a.m. that three people had been killed by Israeli troops operating in Balata, a large refugee camp directly east of Nablus.
Another six Palestinians were injured, including one person in critical condition, the ministry said.
A spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces later announced that an officer had been lightly wounded during the raid. The officer was treated for a shrapnel wound and released from hospital.
In a statement, the IDF said it had carried out the operation to arrest terror suspects, with three taken into custody.
The IDF said it located a laboratory containing tens of kilograms of explosives that were to be used for attacks. The military said a team destroyed the site.
A number of weapons, including rifles and explosive devices, were also seized during the raid, the military said.
The IDF said during the operation, Palestinian suspects threw explosives and rocks at soldiers, and the troops responded with fire.
While it did not confirm the number of Palestinian deaths and injuries, the military said that “hits were detected.”
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant hailed the raid, saying it had prevented several terror attacks being carried out against Israelis.
“In two successful operations carried out by the security forces overnight in Jenin and Nablus, terrorists who opened fire on our forces were eliminated and those planning terror attacks against Israeli citizens were arrested,” Gallant tweeted. “We will hunt down and reach our enemies.”
The three slain men were named by the PA Health Ministry as Fathi Rizk, 30, Abdullah Abu Hamdan, 24, and Mohammed Zeitoun, 34.
Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades says three fighters belonging to the militant group died in clashes against Israeli forces in the Balata camp overnight. pic.twitter.com/dk5fltp83C
— Joe Truzman (@JoeTruzman) May 22, 2023
In pictures and videos from Balata shared online, Israeli soldiers and vehicles, including bulldozers, could be seen moving through the densely populated camp. Gunfire could be heard in some videos.
In one short clip circulating online, which could not be immediately verified, soldiers appeared to shoot a man in the back as he runs away after spotting them coming around a corner.
A massacre in Balata RC, Nablus
Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian walking peacefully inside Balata camp in Nablus from point blank. pic.twitter.com/FURca6MUGR
— Younis | يونس (@ytirawi) May 22, 2023
Footage also appears to show the Israeli military blocking or pushing at least one Red Crescent ambulance trying to enter or exit the camp.
“Pull back there are people in serious condition”
Scenes from the Israeli occupation forces preventing medical teams from entering Balata tonight, an ambulance was allowed exit but the ambulance aren’t allowed entry. pic.twitter.com/nvoRqUHma5
— Younis | يونس (@ytirawi) May 22, 2023
On May 13, the Israeli military raided Balata, sparking a firefight that killed two Palestinians.
The operation came hours after an Israeli soldier was injured while guarding a road in the nearby West Bank town of Huwara, an area of near-constant friction between settlers and Palestinians. Troops had been dispatched to search for suspects, the army said Sunday, though it was unclear if the Balata clash was related.
Nablus and nearby Jenin have been at the center of an ongoing IDF campaign to root out terror, increasing already-high tensions in the area. The offensive was launched following a spate of attacks in late 2021 and 2022.
Since the beginning of the year, Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank have killed 19 people and left several more seriously hurt.
At least 111 West Bank Palestinians have been killed during that span, including the three reported slain Monday. Most of them were killed while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces, but some were uninvolved civilians or were killed under circumstances that are being investigated.
Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.