Palestinians suspected of shooting attack surrender to troops after Nablus gunfight

Nabeel Sawalhi and Nihad Owais suspected of weekend shooting attack on settlement’s security vehicle; police launch small missiles at building during exchange of fire

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

Nabeel Sawalhi and Nihad Owais (right) surrender to Israeli troops after a gun battle in the northern West Bank town of Rujeib near Nablus, August 30, 2022. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)
Nabeel Sawalhi and Nihad Owais (right) surrender to Israeli troops after a gun battle in the northern West Bank town of Rujeib near Nablus, August 30, 2022. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

Two Palestinian gunmen suspected of shooting at a security vehicle in the West Bank over the weekend surrendered to Israeli troops after a lengthy gunbattle on the outskirts of Nablus on Tuesday morning.

Nabeel Sawalhi and Nihad Owais, holed up in a building in the town of Rujeib adjacent to the northern West Bank city of Nablus, opened fire on Israeli troops who sought to arrest them, Border Police said.

For several hours the sides exchanged fire, with the Yamam counterterrorism police unit launching small missiles at the building and officers from the Shin Bet security agency calling via loudspeaker to the pair to hand themselves over.

At one point the father of one of the suspects approached the building and the pair began to emerge with their hands above their heads, and then were arrested, footage showed.

According to police, during a search of the home an M-16 rifle, a handgun, ammunition, grenades, and pipe bombs were seized.

Amid the operation, Palestinian rioters hurled stones at Israeli forces operating in the area. The Israel Defense Forces and Border Police said no troops were hurt.

Smoke billows as Palestinians hurl rocks at Israeli army vehicles during clashes in the town of Rujeib, near the West Bank city of Nablus on August 30, 2022. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

Sawalhi and Owais are accused of Friday night’s attack in which an Israeli security vehicle came under fire near the settlement of Shavei Shomron in the northern West Bank.

No one was injured in the attack, though the car belonging to the settlement’s security team was damaged.

In separate raids across the West Bank, the IDF said, troops arrested another 10 wanted Palestinians.

The incident in Rujeib came hours after two Israelis were moderately injured when Palestinian gunmen opened fire on their car near the entrance to Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus.

The IDF said the Israeli civilians — Jewish worshipers —  had failed to coordinate their pilgrimage to the site with the military. After they were shot at, they were extracted by Israeli soldiers.

Tensions have escalated in the West Bank, with Israeli security forces stepping up arrest raids and operations following a deadly wave of terror attacks against Israelis that left 19 people dead earlier this year.

On Monday morning, troops arrested a wanted member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group after a similar gun battle in the northern West Bank town of Qabatiya.

The terror group said Alaa Zakarna “refused to surrender” until he ran out of ammunition, and eventually turned himself in.

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