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Deadly West Bank firefight leaves at least 3 Palestinians dead, dozens more injured

This is a locator map of Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
AP
This is a locator map of Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

JERUSALEM — Israeli helicopter gunships struck targets Monday in the occupied West Bank as a gunbattle raged in the city of Jenin between Israeli troops and militants, killing three Palestinians, including a 15-year-old boy, officials said.

The violence marked a rare use of Israeli airpower in the territory. During the clashes, Palestinian militants detonated a roadside bomb next to an Israeli military vehicle. At least 29 Palestinians were wounded, six seriously, and Israeli media said a number of Israeli soldiers were hurt.

The escalation was the latest in more than a year of near-daily violence that has wracked the West Bank.

The Israeli military said troops came under fire during an arrest raid in Jenin and shot back at Palestinian gunmen. Israeli media reported that multiple Israeli troops were wounded in the fighting but did not provide more details.

"As the security forces exited the city, a military vehicle was hit by an explosive device, damaging the vehicle," the army said, adding that helicopters "opened fire toward the gunmen in order to assist in extraction of the forces."

Unconfirmed amateur video footage from Jenin appeared to show a roadside explosive targeting an Israeli armored vehicle. Another video posted online appeared to show Israeli military helicopter launching a rocket during the ongoing army operation.

The Israeli military rarely uses aircraft in its operations in the occupied West Bank. Israeli media reported that it was the first use of an attack helicopter in the territory since the Palestinian uprising in the early 2000s.

The Palestinian Health Ministry identified those killed as Khaled Asasa, 21, Qassam Abu Sariya, 29, and 15-year-old Ahmed Saqr, and said at least six others were seriously wounded in the shootout.

Israel and the Palestinians have been gripped by months of violence, focused mainly in the West Bank, where some 120 Palestinians have been killed this year. The city of Jenin has been a hotbed of Palestinian militancy.

Israel has been staging near-nightly raids in the West Bank in response to a spasm of Palestinian violence early last year. Palestinian attacks against Israelis have surged during that time.

Israel says most of the dead were militants, but stone-throwing youths protesting the incursions and others not involved in confrontations have also been killed.

Palestinian attacks against Israelis have killed at least 20 people this year.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Associated Press