Palestinian Authority Lashes Out at Israel After Five Killed on West Bank

Following a confrontation with Israeli forces that resulted in the killings of five Palestinians, the Palestinian Authority condemned the violence and blamed the Israeli government, the Associated Press reported.

The deaths occurred Sunday amid a string of arrest raids against suspected Hamas militants by Israeli troops, two of whom were seriously wounded in the encounter.

The West Bank has seen heightened clashes in recent months between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants, fueled by the building of Israeli settlements, increased militant activity in the region's north and the lingering impacts of last May's conflict between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, the AP said. Sunday's shootout was the deadliest violence between the opposing groups in recent weeks.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett commended the country's forces for engaging "the enemy" and executing the raids against the suspected militants. The Palestinian Authority, which manages some semiautonomous areas in the West Bank, castigated the Israeli government, which it said was "fully and directly responsible for this bloody morning and the crimes committed by the occupation forces."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Site of Palestinian Killings
Following a confrontation with Israeli forces that resulted in the killings of five Palestinians, the Palestinian Authority condemned the violence and blamed the Israeli government. Above, Palestinians inspect a bloodstained site in the West Bank village of Beit Anan on Sunday after an Israeli army operation that left several Palestinian men killed. Nasser Nasser/AP Photo

The Israeli military said that it had been tracking the Hamas militants for several weeks and that the raids were launched in response to immediate threats.

In a statement, the military said it launched five simultaneous raids and soldiers opened fire after being shot at in two locations. It said five militants were killed and several others were arrested.

It also said an officer and a soldier were seriously injured, possibly inadvertently by Israeli fire.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said two Palestinians were shot dead near the northern West Bank city of Jenin and three others were killed in Biddu, north of Jerusalem.

Hamas confirmed that four of the dead, including all three killed in Biddu, were members of the Islamic militant group. Palestinian officials said a 16-year-old boy was also among the dead, though it was not immediately known if he was a militant.

But Hamas also criticized the Palestinian Authority, which maintains security coordination with Israel in a shared struggle against the Islamic group.

Hamas spokesman Abdulatif al-Qanou said that recent meetings between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli officials "encouraged the occupation again to pursue the resistance."

Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip after seizing it from the Palestinian Authority in 2007, praised those killed as "heroic martyrs." It called on its supporters to "devise tactics and means that harm the enemy and drain it with all possible forms of resistance."

Also Sunday, Israel released Khalida Jarrar, a prominent Palestinian lawmaker, after nearly two years in prison. Jarrar, a senior figure in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), has been in and out of Israeli prisons for years—often without being charged.

The PFLP has an armed wing and is considered a terrorist group by Israel and Western countries, but Jarrar has not been implicated in attacks. She was sentenced to two years in prison in March for membership in a banned group but given credit for time already served. She was freed several weeks before her sentence was to end.

Recent months have seen a rise in violence in the West Bank, with more than two dozen Palestinians killed in sporadic clashes with Israeli troops and during protests.

Many of the clashes have occurred near Beita, a Palestinian village where residents regularly demonstrate against an unauthorized settlement outpost, and near Jenin, which is known as a militant stronghold.

Last month, Israeli troops clashed with Palestinian gunmen during a late-night raid in Jenin, killing four Palestinians. Sunday's clashes came a week after Israel recaptured the last of six Palestinian fugitives who tunneled out of a maximum-security Israeli prison earlier this month. The escapees were from Jenin, and two were caught there after an extensive search.

Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war and has established dozens of settlements where nearly 500,000 settlers reside. The Palestinians seek the West Bank as part of their future state and view the settlements as a major obstacle to resolving the conflict.

Meanwhile, Bennett met Sunday evening in New York with officials from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to mark this month's first anniversary of Israel's relations with the two Arab countries. The so-called Abraham Accords—signed under the Trump administration—have led to the opening of embassies, the launch of direct flights and a raft of agreements to boost economic ties.

Speaking to Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani and UAE Minister of State in the Foreign Ministry Khalifa Shaheen Almarar, Bennett said he wanted to assure them of continuity of the agreements since he replaced Benjamin Netanyahu.

"We believe in this relationship and we want to expand it as much as possible," Bennett said.

The Israeli prime minister is to address the U.N. General Assembly's annual meeting of world leaders on Monday morning.

Palestinians Killed in Confrontation
The West Bank village of Beit Anan, west of Ramallah, on Sunday after the Israeli army operation that left several Palestinian men killed. Nasser Nasser/AP Photo