Israeli security forces killed three Palestinian militants late Tuesday after attempting to arrest them near the West Bank city of Hebron, the Shin Bet internal security service and army said.
Shin Bet said in a statement it had along with special police forces killed “two members of a Salafist jihadist network that was active in the area and planned an attack” after an attempt to detain them.
An AFP correspondent said the army had sealed off the area and was searching for a third suspect who apparently had been in a car with the two when the shooting took place.
The army issued a statement later saying that after the initial incident, “a terrorist exchanged fire with security forces, resulting in his death”.
Local residents named the three as Mahmud Khaled Najjar of Yatta, Moussa Abdelmajid Fanasheh from nearby town Dura and Mohamed Neirukh of Hebron, all of them students in their 20s.
The Shin Bet statement said its forces had found “two pistols and a number of demolition blocks (explosives)” in the car.
Prior to Tuesday’s incident, “a number of members of the network were recently arrested” near Yatir in the southern West Bank and the northern city Nablus.
Based on its interrogation, the Shin Bet established that “the members of the network planned a series of attacks against Israeli targets and the Palestinian Authority.”
The statement noted that in recent months the members of the network “were establishing a broad military infrastructure, including preparing safe houses, purchasing arms and producing explosives”.
Tuesday’s deaths bring the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank and Gaza in the year 2013 to 24, according to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, most of them West Bank fatalities.