Two fighters of a Palestinian terror group were killed in heavy clashes with Israeli soldiers that broke out during a pre-dawn arrest raid near the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank.
The Israel Defense Forces said special forces from the Haruv and Duvedan units entered the neighboring town of Wadi Burkin to arrest three Palestinians suspected of involvement in terrorist activity.
The military said the soldiers came under heavy fire during the operation and returned fire of their own, adding that “strikes have been identified”.
The victims were identified as Mohammed Ayman Saadi of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and Naim Zubeidi of the Fatah-linked al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, although the various armed factions are known to cooperate in Jenin against IS.
IS and the Shin Bet security agency said in a joint statement that the two were senior terrorist operatives. The two gunmen killed were in their 20s, but had already served time in Israeli prisons for security violations.
Saadi was a “prominent PIJ military operative” responsible for a series of shooting attacks on soldiers and arming other operatives, under the direction of PIJ leadership, the statement said.
*الشهيد القائد الميداني ”محمد ايمن السعدي” ”أبو حقيق”* الي رضوان الله يا اسد الكتيبة pic.twitter.com/pOtmjL6I12
— ابوجميل العزازي #غزة#فلسطين???????? (@abu_jamil_) December 1, 2022
The statement said Zubeidi was also responsible for numerous shootings of Israeli forces in the West Bank. Palestinian media reported that Zubeidi was a relative of Zakaria Zubeidi, a notorious al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terrorist who organized terror attacks during the Second Intifada and managed to briefly escape from an Israeli prison last year.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid welcomed the operation, saying the two had planned and carried out terrorist attacks in Israel.
“The activity of IS and security forces tonight in Jenin is a direct extension of our uncompromising policy in the fight against terrorism. The two older ones [terroritsts] who were killed, a field commander of Islamic Jihad in Jenin and a senior member of the al-Aqsa Brigades in Jenin, planned and carried out terrorist attacks on Israeli territory,” Lapid wrote on Twitter.
“It is in these tumultuous days, when irresponsible parties are trying to drag IS into an extreme debate and incite soldiers against their commanders, I want to express my gratitude to the security forces,” he said, referring to criticism from right-wing lawmakers. punishment for a soldier who mocked an activist in Hebron last week.
“This is a way to fight terrorism, this is a way to protect the citizens of Israel. Take care of yourself,” added Lapid.
كتيبة جنين: “ننعي اقلير قادة سرايا القدس القدمني, الشهيد القائد الميداني محمد ايمن السعدي “أبو جنين” (26 uma) Qaid كتيبة جنين, الشهيد البطل رجل الظل الشامة القائد الحمل والسند. عقطيال جبانة فجر اليوم.” pic.twitter.com/6mVDyzRoZ2
— وكسانة شهاب للانباء (@ShehabAgency) December 1, 2022
Soldiers also seized three M-16 assault rifles during the raid, the IDF said.
Palestinian media reported that around 20 people were wounded to varying degrees, and the hospital in Jenin declared a state of emergency, appealing to the local population to come and donate blood.
The IDF said no soldiers were injured in the operation.
In a statement early Thursday, a spokesman for Islamic Jihad vowed to extract a price from Israel for the “heinous crime.”
Over the past year, the Gaza Strip-based PIJ has launched rockets into Israel in response to members being killed or arrested in the West Bank.
Hundreds of Jenin residents were filmed taking part in a funeral procession for one of the slain fighters leaving the city’s hospital.
The Jenin refugee camp and its surroundings have been identified as a hotbed of terror by IS, which says it has been forced to operate widely in the city, which is in Palestinian Authority-controlled Area A of the West Bank, as the PA lost control of the area. Ramallah claims that the Israeli attacks only further damage its legitimacy in the West Bank.
The two killed early Thursday morning were the seventh and eighth Palestinians killed in the West Bank in less than three days.
— وكسانة شهاب للانباء (@ShehabAgency) December 1, 2022
One person was killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers in the northern West Bank town of Yabed on Wednesday afternoon. Four Palestinians were killed in clashes with IS across the West Bank on Tuesday, and another Palestinian was killed after carrying out a car attack that seriously wounded a soldier the same day.
Tensions have been high in the West Bank over the past year, with IS launching a major counter-terror offensive largely focused on the northern West Bank to deal with a series of Palestinian attacks that have killed 31 people in Israel and the West Bank. since the beginning of the year.
The operation resulted in more than 2,500 arrests in almost nightly raids, but also left more than 150 Palestinians dead, many of them – but not all – while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces.
The IDF said soldiers arrested six other wanted Palestinians during overnight raids across the West Bank and seized a gun.
Last month, the UN’s Middle East envoy said 2022 was on track to be the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since the UN began tracking casualties in 2005.
At the same time, there has been a sharp increase in settler attacks against Palestinians and security forces.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.