Palestinian gunmen in a passing car opened fire on Israeli troops near Nablus early Friday morning, Israel’s army said, moments after the military announced it was easing a blockade on the Palestinian city following gains against a local terror group.
Two Palestinian men were killed and a third was injured by Israeli fire, the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry said.
The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that a group of soldiers in the town of Huwara, just south of Nablus, opened fire on two “suspect” vehicles after a passing car opened fire on separate troops at an IDF post in the town.
No soldiers were injured and hits were identified, the army said.
Palestinian health officials said Imad Abu Rashid, 47, was killed after being shot by Israeli forces in the head, chest and stomach, and Ramzi Sami Zabara, 35, was shot in the heart.
A third Palestinian was also brought to Nablus’s Rafidia Hospital, where his condition was listed as stable.
The military said soldiers who shot at the cars had been in the area as part of routine operations involving ambushing Palestinian attackers.
Troops were searching the area for additional suspects, and a number of shell casings were found at the scene of the incident, according to the IDF.
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Video published on social media appeared to show one of the cars that had taken Israeli fire, with several broken windows and what appeared to be bullet holes. A balaclava is also seen on a seat.
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The attack occurred about an hour after the Israeli military announced it was opening a number of entrances into Nablus, which has been under a tight military cordon since October 12.
“Following a situational assessment… it was decided to change the method of restricting movement in the Nablus area and some entrances into the city will be opened tonight,” an IDF spokesperson said in a statement sent shortly after midnight.
It was not immediately clear if the Huwara checkpoint was among those that were reopened.
The decision to ease the blockade on the city came after Israel appeared to make major gains against the Lions Den terror group in recent days. The ad hoc group, which had formed less than two months earlier, had claimed responsibility for near-nightly attacks on soldiers and settlements, including a shooting on October 11 that left one soldier dead.
On Tuesday, Israeli troops raided a house used by Lion’s Den in Nablus’s old city, killing the apparent leader of the group and four other gunmen, and destroyed a bomb factory. That came a day after another senior member was killed in a strike attributed to Israel.
At least four members of Lion’s Den turned themselves in to the Palestinian Authority security services late Wednesday, reportedly as part of a deal granting them protection from the Israeli crackdown, which has also netted a number of arrests in recent days.
Lion’s Den members have vowed to continue carrying out attacks.