Palestinian killed during IDF raid in northern West Bank town

Troops fire missiles at home in Aqaba, near Tubas, where suspects behind recent shooting thought to be holed up; dead man, an eighth grade teacher, said to be a bystander

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Palestinians inspect a damaged house following an Israel military raid in the Palestinian town of Aqaba, near Tubas in the West Bank, on September 1, 2023. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh / AFP)
Palestinians inspect a damaged house following an Israel military raid in the Palestinian town of Aqaba, near Tubas in the West Bank, on September 1, 2023. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh / AFP)

A Palestinian man was killed during clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen in a northern West Bank town on Friday morning, Palestinian health officials said.

In a short statement, the Palestinian Authority health ministry said 36-year-old Abd al-Rahim Fayez Ghannem was fatally shot in the head in the town of Aqaba, on the outskirts of Tubas. Relatives said Ghannem was an uninvolved teacher who was walking with his wife when he was shot.

The Israel Defense Forces said troops raided Aqaba, surrounded a home where wanted Palestinians were thought to be holed up, and fired shoulder-launched missiles and hurled grenades at it, in a tactic known as a “pressure cooker,” to flush the suspects out.

Photos from the scene showed a bullet-pocked exterior of the home with a gaping hole punched through one wall.

The IDF said that during the operation, there was an exchange of fire between troops and Palestinian gunmen.

The military said forces opened fire and hit an armed Palestinian.

Smoke billows from a building during an Israeli army raid in the Palestinian town of Aqaba, near Tubas in the West Bank, on September 1, 2023. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh / AFP)

After sweeping the building, Israeli troops found military equipment, a handgun and two improvised explosive devices, the army said.

The IDF said two wanted Palestinians were arrested elsewhere in the town.

According to Army Radio, the IDF was seeking to arrest suspects behind a shooting attack at the Hamra junction in the northern Jordan Valley last month but withdrew from the area after failing to apprehend them.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group also claimed that the wanted men managed to flee the wrecked house.

“Our fighters provided cover with heavy fire to break the siege on the house and allow our brothers to withdraw safely from the area,” the group said in a congratulatory message to its members.

In the terror attack on August 2, an Israeli woman was lightly injured while traveling with her family, after her car came under fire by another passing car.

A car damaged in a terrorist shooting attack near the Hamra interchange in the West Bank, August 2, 2023 (Courtesy)

During the firefight, Ghanem was killed while walking home to his wife after spending the early morning tending to his sheep and vegetables at his farm, his 33-year-old cousin Islam said.

Ghanem worked as an eighth-grade English teacher at a school in the area, Islam added, declining to give his own last name for fear of reprisals. He said that Ghanem avoided politics as much as he could and had no connection to the local armed groups.

The IDF said it was not specifically aware of Ghanem’s situation but that soldiers reported they shot one Palestinian who they identified as a gunman. The contradictory accounts could not immediately be reconciled.

The Palestinian Authority health ministry blamed Israel for his death, saying that an Israeli army bullet struck Ghanem in the head.

Ghanem was buried a few hours later. During the funeral, scores of Palestinians streamed through the streets chanting against Israel as they held Ghanem aloft, his body wrapped in a simple white sheet rather than in any Palestinian faction flags.

Violence has surged across the West Bank over the past year and a half, with a rise in Palestinian shooting attacks against Israeli civilians and troops, near-nightly arrest raids by the military, and an uptick in revenge attacks by extremist Jewish settlers against Palestinians.

In recent days there has been an increase in Palestinian attacks.

On Thursday morning, an off-duty Israeli soldier was killed and six others, including soldiers, were wounded in a truck-ramming terror attack near the central city of Modiin.

Late Wednesday, four soldiers were hurt after Palestinians set off a large explosive device in the West Bank city of Nablus.

Also on Wednesday night, a Palestinian teenager stabbed and moderately hurt an Israeli man at a light rail station in Jerusalem.

And on Wednesday morning, a Palestinian man was shot and seriously wounded by Israeli troops after allegedly ramming them with his vehicle near the southern West Bank city of Hebron. One soldier was lightly hurt.

Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank since the beginning of the year have left 27 civilians and three soldiers dead, and several others seriously wounded.

According to a tally by The Times of Israel, 178 West Bank Palestinians have been killed during the same period — the vast majority of them during clashes with security forces or while carrying out attacks, but some were uninvolved civilians and others were killed under unclear circumstances, including by armed Israeli settlers.

According to fresh figures provided by the defense establishment on Thursday, security forces have carried out more than 2,000 arrest operations in the West Bank and foiled more than 470 terror attacks since the beginning of the year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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