Hamas ‘fighter’ killed during armed clash with IDF in Nablus

5 other Palestinians wounded in exchanges of fire as military enters northern West Bank city to secure Joseph’s Tomb for Jewish pilgrimage

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

Illustrative: Israeli soldiers escort hundreds of Jewish worshippers to the Joseph's Tomb holy site in Nablus in the northern West Bank on December 10, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
Illustrative: Israeli soldiers escort hundreds of Jewish worshippers to the Joseph's Tomb holy site in Nablus in the northern West Bank on December 10, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

A member of the Hamas terror group was killed as Israeli troops clashed with Palestinian gunmen in the northern West Bank early Thursday.

Ahmed Atef Mustafa Daraghmeh was mortally wounded when armed Palestinians exchanged fire with Israeli troops that entered the city of Nablus to escort Jewish worshippers to a site known as the biblical Joseph’s Tomb in the Palestinian city.

Palestinian medical officials said another five people were wounded in the clash.

The sound of gunfire was heard in amateur videos that Palestinians recorded from their windows.

Images published by Palestinian media outlets showed Daraghmeh’s body draped in the flag of Hamas, indicating his affiliation with the terror group.

In a statement later Thursday, Hamas said Daraghmeh was a “fighter” in the group.

Daraghmeh, from the nearby town of Tubas, was also reported to be a soccer player for the Tulkarem team, according to Palestinian media.

The Israel Defense Forces said Palestinians hurled explosives and opened fire at troops who entered the city. The forces returned fire and suspects were hit, the IDF added.

The Nablus-based Lion’s Den and a local wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad both claimed to have engaged the Israeli forces in the city.

Orthodox Israelis visit Joseph Tomb’s on a monthly basis, if not more frequently, and the pilgrimages almost always spark violent clashes with Palestinian locals when the IDF enters Nablus beforehand to secure the area for the arrival of the hardline pilgrims.

The shrine, regarded by some as the final resting place of the biblical patriarch Joseph, is located inside Area A of the West Bank, which is officially under complete PA control, though the Israeli military regularly enters, despite Palestinian opposition.

The IDF bars Israeli citizens from entering Area A without prior authorization, and some criticize the monthly incursions as an unnecessary provocation that places Israeli soldiers at risk.

In recent months, Palestinian gunmen have repeatedly targeted military posts, troops operating along the West Bank security barrier, Israeli settlements and civilians on the roads.

Israeli troops operate in the West Bank, early December 21, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

The incidents have come amid an Israeli anti-terror offensive mostly focused on the northern West Bank to deal with a series of Palestinian attacks that have left 31 people dead in Israel and the West Bank since the start of the year.

The operation has netted more than 2,500 arrests in near-nightly raids, but has also left 170 Palestinians dead, many of them — but not all — while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces.

In separate arrest raids early Thursday, troops detained four wanted Palestinians across the West Bank, the military said.

Agencies and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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