A Palestinian was killed during a firefight between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians in the West Bank city of Jenin on Wednesday morning, according to Palestinian Authority health officials and the Islamic Jihad terror group.
Israeli troops raided Jenin and the nearby town of Qabatiya in the pre-dawn hours in an attempt to arrest Palestinian terror suspects. Soldiers also pinned a demolition order to the home of Ra’ad Hazem, the terrorist who killed three people when he opened fire in a busy Tel Aviv bar on April 7.
The military said five Palestinians were detained in the Jenin area. Palestinian media identified one as Asim Abu al-Heija, the son of a senior official in the Hamas terror group.
Palestinian gunmen opened fire on the soldiers after they entered the city’s incendiary refugee camp, the army said. A local branch of the Islamic Jihad terror group claimed responsibility for the firefight in a statement circulated in Palestinian media.
“During the operation in Jenin, Israel Defense Forces troops acted to quell a violent riot at the scene with dozens of Palestinians who opened fire, burned trash, and hurled explosive devices at troops, who responded with gunfire,” the army said in a statement.
According to the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry, an 18-year-old Palestinian was killed during the clashes. The official WAFA news outlet identified the deceased as Ahmad Massad, 21, a resident of the nearby town of Burqin.
Another three Palestinians were injured by live fire during the gunfight with Israeli troops, although all were in stable condition, the PA Health Ministry said.
The operation was the military’s first in Jenin in two weeks. Israeli forces conducted a spate of raids in mid-April in an attempt to crack down on a wave of Palestinian violence emanating from the northern West Bank city.
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There was no immediate word from Palestinian health officials on Massad’s death. But the terror group confirmed it and claimed the young man as a member.
“With pride and regard we hail the heroic martyr, our son Ahmed Muhammad Fathi Massad,” Islamic Jihad said in a statement, adding that Massad had formerly served time in Israeli prison for security offenses.
A string of four attacks that preceded the Israeli crackdown killed 14 people in Israel — the deadliest outbreak of terrorism in years. The ensuing raids sparked clashes that left at least 25 Palestinians dead, many of whom took part in the clashes, while others appeared to have been uninvolved civilians.
The Israeli army said 12 Palestinians suspected of involvement in terror activities were arrested during overnight raids across the West Bank, including two in Jenin and three in the nearby town of Qabatiya.
The Jenin area has emerged as a major hotspot for terror activity in recent months. Two perpetrators of recent attacks — Hazem and Diaa Hamarsheh, whose shooting spree left five dead in Bnei Brak — hailed from Jenin and its environs.
“We are not terrorists. We are defending our land and country and the path of our prophet,” Hazem’s father Fathi told local Palestinian media after the demolition order was posted on his Jenin home. The former PA security officer has repeatedly praised his son’s terror attack.
The Shin Bet security service said Monday that it had foiled an attempt by the Gaza-based Islamic Jihad to enlist residents of the West Bank to commit attacks against Israeli targets.
The agency said several Palestinians from the Jenin area — including Yasmin Shaaban, a 40-year-old mother of four — were detained for planning a bombing attack against Israeli farmers in the area.
It accused Islamic Jihad operatives in Gaza of directing the cell to build explosive devices to use in an attack. Footage released by the agency allegedly showed the members testing out an explosive device that was shaped similarly to a rocket.
Earlier this month, Israeli troops attempted to arrest a team of terrorists near Jenin on their way to carry out an attack. Three Islamic Jihad members were killed in the ensuing firefight and four Israeli soldiers were injured.
Tensions have risen sharply between Israel and the Palestinians in recent weeks against the backdrop of the four terror attacks in Israeli cities. Two were carried out by Arab Israeli assailants inspired by the Islamic State group, while the other two terrorists were West Bank Palestinians.
Tensions further spiked in recent weeks amid violent clashes between Palestinian rioters and police on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, leading to the injury of dozens of Palestinians and several police officers. There has also been rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, including two rockets fired Friday.