Three Palestinians were killed in Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank Saturday after Israeli soldiers launched an operation to arrest a militant, Palestinian officials said.
Medical and security sources said two of those killed were militants and the third was a civilian, and that 14 other Palestinians were wounded, two of them in critical condition.
The Palestinian sources said soldiers entered the camp in the northern West Bank city to arrest Hamza Abu Alheja, 20, a member of the Hamas military wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades.
Clashes broke out resulting in the death of Abu Alheja and another militant, Mahmud Abu Zena, 19, of the Islamic Jihad.
A civilian named as Yazan Jabarin was also killed in the clashes, the Palestinians said, as a day of mourning and general strike were announced.
Army spokesman Peter Lerner called Abu Alheja “a ticking bomb” who took part in shooting attacks and was in “advanced stages of the preparation of further attacks”.
Lerner told reporters security forces shot Abu Alheja only after he shot and lightly wounded two Israelis while trying to escape from the building in which he was holed up.
He added: “Palestinians began to shoot and throw explosive devices at the troops, and as a result we have two more killed.,
Israeli forces tried to arrest Abu Alheja in a December raid that resulted in the death of an Islamic Jihad militant.
Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said Saturday’s incident “saved lives” since it “thwarted a terror attack that had already been planned and was supposed to target Israelis”.
– ‘End security coordination’ –
Around 15,000 mourners calling for Palestinian unity and vengeance, as well as an end to Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, attended a joint funeral for the three.
An AFP correspondent said the bodies of Abu Alheja and Abu Zena were wrapped in flags of their Hamas and Jihad movements, while Jabarin was wrapped in the flag of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed offshoot of Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah party.
A rare joint statement by the three movements issued during the funeral vowed revenge and accused the Palestinian Authoriy of complicity in the killings through its security cooperation with Israel.
PA security forces had arrested Abu Alheja in the past.
Gaza rulers Hamas called on the PA to “end security coordination with the Israeli occupation and leave the resistance to act freely,” in a statement.
Abu Alheja’s father, Jamal Abu Alheja, is a prominent leader of the Islamist movement Hamas. He has been jailed by Israel since 2002.
The Islamic Jihad said in a statement that the Jenin killings demonstrated that “resistance continues”.
Saturday’s violence prompted protests in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and in east Jerusalem, and came as Palestinians in Gaza prepared to mark the 10th anniversary of Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in an Israeli air strike.
More than 3,000 Hamas and Islamic Jihad supporters convened in Jabalia refugee camp, in northern Gaza, with speakers from both factions urging West Bank Palestinians to “continue resistance against the occupation” and vowing revenge.
In east Jerusalem, some 150 Palestinians demonstrated and threw stones at police who responded with stun grenades.
An AFP correspondent said 10 people were slightly wounded and a police spokeswoman said six were detained.
A spokesman for Abbas condemned the “continuing escalation against the Palestinian people”, for which he blamed Israel.
“We call on the US administration to move quickly to prevent a general collapse in the region,” Nabil Abu Rudeina said.
On Thursday, he said US-sponsored peace talks with Israel have reached an impasse because of Jewish settlement activity.
The talks are on the brink of collapse, with Washington fighting an uphill battle to get the two sides to agree to a framework proposal to extend the negotiations to the year’s end after an April 29 deadline.
Saturday’s deaths mark the bloodiest clash in the West Bank since November, when Israel killed three men it said were Salafist militants.
Since the beginning of 2014, Israeli forces have killed nine Palestinians in the West Bank, according to an AFP tally.