Four Palestinians have been killed in separate incidents in the occupied West Bank, three at the hands of Israeli soldiers, and one by an Israeli settler, according to the Israeli military and medical officials.
Two of the men were killed near Shufa village in the Tulkarm area, Israel’s military said on Thursday, adding that a gunfight had erupted after soldiers identified a “suspicious vehicle”, and the two men shot at the settler.
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“Soldiers engaged and after exchanges of fire, the two terrorists were neutralised,” the military said.
Israeli forces regularly raid Tulkarm.
Al Jazeera’s Nida Ibrahim, reporting from Ramallah, said that usually when the Israeli forces raid the Palestinian city in the West Bank, Palestinians tend to retaliate by shooting towards illegal Israeli settlements.
However, this time, the Palestinians who were killed “are believed to have shot at an Israeli settler on a motorcycle, according to witnesses”, she said.
Ibrahim added that Israeli forces prevented medical aid from reaching the scene this morning and then “took” the bodies as “a part of an Israeli policy to withhold the bodies of Palestinians believed to have committed attacks against Israelis and Israeli soldiers”.
Local news site WAFA identified the two young men as Abd al-Rahman Atta and Hudhayfah Fares.
Palestinians killed in Huwara
Hours later, a Palestinian was shot by Israeli occupation forces in Huwara, south of Nablus in the occupied West Bank. Initial reports suggested that he was killed after he shot towards settlers in the area, but no injuries or damage was reported.
The fourth Palestinian, named as 19-year-old Labib Dhamidi by the Palestinian state news agency WAFA, was reportedly killed by a settler after they descended on the town following the earlier incident.
According to local journalist and activist Abdul Rahman Dhamidi, confrontations in Huwara were ongoing late on Thursday and into the early hours of Friday.
“As I speak to you now, I can hear the sound of live bullets being fired by the army, as settlers [are] attacking homes with stones. Israeli army forces have also been using tear gas and rubber bullets to suppress any Palestinian response to the settler actions,” said Abdul Rahman Dhamidi.
“What is happening on the main street of the town of Huwara is a real battlefield between Palestinian residents and Israeli settlers. The situation in our town is very, very difficult,” he added.
According to Kamal Odeh, secretary of the Fatah movement in Huwara, more than 500 Israeli settlers have been stationed along the main road of Huwara under the protection of the Israeli army.
“They are placing chairs and tables near Huwara gas station in the middle of the town. Dozens of cars belonging to Palestinians have been smashed. There has also been an attack in the town centre area with reports of injuries,” he explained.
Settlers regularly attack Huwara, including in February when they killed one Palestinian in a rampage and destroyed homes and cars. An Israeli general described the incident as a pogrom, but Israel’s far-right finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, later called for Huwara to be wiped out.
Huwara has been the site of several attacks in recent months, with the latest being on August 19, when two Israelis were killed. The Palestinian gunman behind the August shooting is still at large.
The West Bank, which is illegally occupied by Israel, has seen a surge of violence in recent months amid an almost 10-year impasse in United States-sponsored peacemaking efforts.
Israel has stepped up military raids, primarily in the north of the occupied West Bank, for more than 18 months in what it says is a campaign to root out Palestinian resistance fighters and thwart future attacks.
The Israeli army has been militarily occupying the West Bank, where some three million Palestinians live, for 56 years, an occupation viewed as illegal by the United Nations and most countries.
In July, Israel launched one of its biggest attacks on the occupied West Bank, killing at least 12 Palestinians in the Jenin refugee camp and wounding about 100 others.
The UN has said 2023 has been the deadliest year for Palestinians since it started counting deaths in 2006.
More than 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the start of this year, according to the health ministry. At least 35 Israelis were also killed in Palestinian attacks during the same period.
Additional reporting by Ayman Nobani in Nablus.