A deadly Israeli drone attack hit a vehicle in the northern West Bank in a new escalation of attacks on the occupied Palestinian territory.
The official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported three people were killed late Wednesday in the attack. The air raid occurred in the Jenin refugee camp and set the car on fire, according to video circulated on social media.
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Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett, reporting from Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, said the drone attack was the culmination of a joint military-intelligence operation. “We don’t know who was inside the vehicle or how many. Details are very sketchy at this stage,” he said.
In a statement, Israel’s military said it “identified a terrorist cell inside a suspicious vehicle after the cell carried out a shooting adjacent to the town of Jalamah”.
Jalamah, at the northern end of the occupied West Bank, is just a few kilometres from Jenin where an Israeli raid killed seven Palestinians on Monday.
It claimed the targets had been responsible for a number of shooting attacks on Jewish settlements. The identities of the occupants in the car were not immediately known.
“Following the identification of the terrorist cell, an [Israel military] UAV fired toward the cell and thwarted them,” it said.
The rare drone raid in the occupied West Bank marked an escalation in Israel’s continuing campaign against Palestinians in the area.
“The identity of the terrorists is being checked by the Shin Bet investigation, apparently there are both Hamas and Islamic Jihad identities there,” said military spokesman Brigadier-General Daniel Hagari.
He said 2006 was the last time “this kind of thwarting” was used involving a drone.
Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said what he called the “assassination crime” would not go unpunished.
“The use of planes by the Zionist army to assassinate our people is a grave escalation,” Qassem said.
A statement from the Jenin Brigades, which includes fighters from different Palestinian factions, said two of the men killed belonged to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad armed group and one was from Fatah.
Islamic Jihad said Israel must now await “punishment” after its “foolish act to target three of our fighters by drones and detaining their bodies”.
Earlier on Wednesday, hundreds of Israeli settlers stormed into a Palestinian town in the occupied West Bank, setting fire to dozens of cars and homes to avenge the deaths of four Israelis killed by Palestinian attackers the previous day. Palestinians said one man was killed in the violence.
The long string of violent incidents in the region over the past year and a half has shown no sign of relenting.
Israel has said most of the Palestinians killed were fighters, but stone-throwing youths protesting army incursions and others not involved in confrontations have also routinely been killed.
Israel captured the West Bank, along with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, in the 1967 Middle East war. The Palestinians seek those territories for a future independent state.