JERUSALEM (AP) — Palestinian gunmen opened fire on Israeli troops near a checkpoint in the occupied West Bank Wednesday, killing an Israeli army officer, the Israeli military said. Palestinian officials said that troops killed the gunmen.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said that two Palestinians were killed by the Israeli army, without providing additional details.
The military said soldiers spotted two individuals approaching the separation barrier in the northern West Bank and that it dispatched soldiers to the area. It said the two suspects were armed with automatic weapons and began shooting at troops, who returned fire.
The Israeli army confirmed that Maj. Bar Falah, 30, was killed by the gunmen in the shootout.
The official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that the Israeli army was holding the bodies of the two men. It identified them as Ahmad Abed, 23, and Abd al-Rahman Abed, 22, both from a village near the city of Jenin.
The Israeli military confirmed that Ahmad Abed was a member of the Palestinian Authority security services.
The Palestinian militant group Hamas praised the attack, hailing the two gunmen as “heroic martyrs.”
Wednesday’s violence was the latest in a long string of incidents involving deadly confrontations between soldiers and Palestinians in the West Bank in recent months, particularly around the city of Jenin, which has become a bastion for armed struggle against Israel.
Israel has been carrying out nightly arrest raids in West Bank cities, towns and villages since a spate of attacks against Israelis in the spring killed 19 people.
Israeli fire has killed scores of Palestinians during that time, making it the deadliest year in the occupied territory since 2016.
The Israeli military says the vast majority of those killed were militants or stone-throwers who endangered the soldiers. But several civilians have also been killed during Israel’s monthslong operation, including a veteran journalist and a lawyer who apparently drove unwittingly into a battle zone. Some local youths who took to the streets in response to the invasion of their neighborhoods have also been killed.
Israel says the arrest raids are meant to dismantle militant networks that have embedded themselves. The Palestinians say the operations are aimed at maintaining Israel’s 55-year military occupation of territories they want for an independent state.
Israel captured the West Bank, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, in the 1967 Mideast war and the Palestinians seek those territories for a future state.