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Israeli forces killed three Palestinian militants in an exchange of fire in the occupied West Bank on Saturday, police said, raising fears of a further escalation in violence during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Israeli media said four members of an Israel Police counterterrorism unit were injured, one of them seriously. Troops came under fire as they tried to arrest suspected militants in the northern West Bank.
Tensions have skyrocketed in recent days after Palestinian assailants killed 11 Israelis in separate attacks across the country. Saturday marks the start of Ramadan, a month of fasting, prayer and religious devotion from dawn to dusk for hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world. In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Ramadan has often been a time of heightened friction and confrontation.
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Israel Police said the three militants were members of a cell involved in the recent attacks on Israeli forces and were planning another attack which was foiled during Saturday morning’s joint operation with the army and security services. information.
Live videos from witnesses on social media showed a crowd of Palestinians inspecting the scene of clashes near the city of Jenin after Israeli troops withdrew. The street was covered in bloodstains and the men chanted slogans calling for revenge.
Palestine TV reported that Israeli forces seized the bodies of the activists.
In response to recent Palestinian attacks, more Israeli forces have been sent to the West Bank in recent days for increased searches, patrols and arrest raids.
With Saturday’s deaths, seven Palestinians have been killed in three days, including two in a shooting on Thursday and one after stabbing and wounding an Israeli on a bus in the West Bank.
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A Palestinian was killed by soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron on Friday in clashes that erupted after prayers at the mosque. The Israeli army said its forces fired on a Palestinian who threw a firebomb at them.
Several hundred Jewish settlers live under heavy military protection in the heart of Hebron, a city of more than 200,000 Palestinians and home to an important holy site sacred to Jews and Muslims.
Also on Friday, the Palestine Red Crescent Emergency Service said 36 Palestinians had been injured in weekly clashes with Israeli forces elsewhere in the West Bank. Protesters often throw rocks and firebombs at Israeli troops who use tear gas, rubber bullets and live fire. Thirty-three of the injured were hit by rubber bullets and three by live ammunition on Friday, the Red Crescent said.
At Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem, Islam’s third holiest site, authorities said more than 30,000 people attended Friday prayers on the eve of Ramadan. No demonstrations or violence were reported.
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The peak on which the mosque sits is the holiest site to Jews, who call it the Temple Mount, and it has been a frequent flashpoint in the century-old conflict.
Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian leaders have had a flurry of talks in recent weeks, and Israel has made a series of goodwill gestures, all aimed at easing tensions ahead of Ramadan.
They hope to avoid a repeat of last year, when protests and clashes in Jerusalem during Ramadan sparked an 11-day war in Gaza and Jewish-Arab violence in Israel’s mixed towns.