JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli forces killed two Palestinian militants during an arrest raid Thursday in the occupied West Bank, according to the military and the Islamic Jihad militant group, the latest bloodshed in months of violence between the sides.
The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the men as Naeem Jamal Zubaidi, 27, and Mohammad Ayman Saadi, 26 and said they were killed in the Jenin refugee camp.
The military said Saadi was a prominent member of the Islamic Jihad group while Zubaidi was involved in shooting attacks against Israeli troops. Islamic Jihad said the two men were members.
The military said troops were carrying out an arrest raid and were met by gunfire. The forces responded, and the two men were killed in the exchange of fire.
In Gaza meanwhile, the United Nations said it had uncovered a “man-made cavity” under one of the schools it operates — an apparent reference to underground tunnels used by militants, including the Hamas Islamic militant group that rules the territory. Hamas’ sophisticated tunnel system has helped it fight wars against Israel.
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, which operates the school, said it protested the discovery under its facility to authorities in Gaza. It called the tunnel “a serious violation of the agency’s neutrality and a breach of international law.” Israel accuses Hamas and other Gaza militants of operating from within the civilian population in the densely populated territory.
Fighting between Israel and the Islamic Jihad has intensified in recent months, including from the Gaza Strip, where a two-day spasm of violence erupted in the summer, killing dozens of Palestinians and disrupting the lives of hundreds of thousands of Israelis. The group has a significant presence in Jenin where the Palestinian security forces have less of a foothold, making the area, in the northern West Bank, a focus of Israeli military operations in recent months.
The military has been conducting months of arrest raids in the West Bank, prompted by a spate of Palestinian attacks against Israelis in the spring that killed 19 people. The military says the raids are meant to dismantle militant networks and thwart future attacks, but the Palestinians say they entrench Israel’s open-ended occupation and undermine their own security forces.
The raids have ratcheted up tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, triggering another wave of Palestinian attacks in recent weeks that have killed an additional nine people.
More than 130 Palestinians have been killed this year, making 2022 the deadliest since 2006. The Israeli military says many of those killed have been militants but local youths protesting the incursions as well as others not involved in the violence have also been killed.
Israel captured the West Bank, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians want those territories for their hoped-for future state. Substantive peace talks were last held more than a decade ago, and with Israel headed toward what’s likely to be its most right-wing government ever, there appears to be no prospect for a new negotiations in the near future.