Three Palestinians were killed during an Israeli army raid in the Balata refugee camp near Nablus in the West Bank early on Monday, according to Palestinian health officials. The raid, which took place from 1am to 5am, involved hundreds of Israeli soldiers and special forces. The Israeli army confirmed the raid and stated that their troops came under fire, resulting in the killing of three Palestinians. Three others were arrested, and weapons as well as an explosives manufacturing operation were seized and subsequently destroyed.
The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the deceased as Muhammad Abu Zaytoun, 32, Fathi Abu Rizk, 30, and Abdullah Abu Hamdan, 24. In addition, at least seven other Palestinians were injured, with four sustaining gunshot wounds, and several others suffered from tear gas inhalation.
The Biden administration strongly criticized Israel's latest act of settlement expansion in the West Bank. The US State Department issued a statement condemning Israel's move to reestablish settlers at the formerly evacuated outpost of Homesh in northern West Bank, describing it as an illegal policy in the occupied territory. The US also expressed concerns about ultranationalist National Security Minister Itmar Ben-Gvir's visit to the Temple Mount, emphasizing the need to respect its sanctity and avoid using it for political purposes.
The raid in Balata comes amid escalating tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. The Israeli government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has made West Bank settlement construction a top priority, despite most of the international community considering Israeli settlements illegal and obstacles to peace.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) condemned the raid, with spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh describing it as a "massacre." He criticized the ongoing aggression by Israeli forces and settlers in Nablus and called for an immediate end to such acts, warning that they could lead to regional instability.
According to reports by Aljazeera, the Balata refugee camp, where the raid occurred, is the largest in the occupied West Bank and is home to approximately 30,000 Palestinians. During the raid, Israeli forces blockaded the camp's entrances, demolished and damaged homes, and allegedly used anti-tank grenades. Residents reported feeling the impact of the bullets and accused Israeli forces of targeting ambulance crews attempting to reach the wounded.
Since June 2021, Israel has been conducting regular raids and killings in the West Bank in response to a rise in armed resistance. In 2022, Israeli forces killed over 170 Palestinians, including 30 children, making it the deadliest year for Palestinians in the occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank since 2006. In 2023 alone, at least 156 Palestinians, including 26 children, have been killed by Israeli forces.
(With AP Inputs)