JERUSALEM — Four Palestinian militants were killed Wednesday during an Israeli army raid in the occupied West Bank, according to Palestinian health officials, in one of the deadliest clashes in the territory this year.
The men were among more than 90 Palestinians and two Israeli security officials killed in the West Bank so far in 2022, the biggest spasm of violence there in seven years.
Israeli military incursions have increased in the West Bank since March, when the Israeli army launched an operation to stem a wave of Arab attacks in the spring that killed 19 Israelis and foreigners, some of which were carried out by Palestinians from the West Bank.
Palestinian attacks on Israeli soldiers and settlers inside the West Bank also increased during the same period, amid growing Palestinian resentment over increased Israeli incursions; frustration with the entrenchment of the 55-year occupation; and the unwillingness of the Palestinian Authority, the body that administers nearly 40 percent of the West Bank, to crack down on militants operating within its small pockets of control.
The army said it entered Jenin on Wednesday to arrest two wanted militants, including the brother of a gunman who killed three Israeli civilians outside a Tel Aviv bar in April. The raid sparked an hour-long firefight as militants in the neighborhood, armed with assault rifles, tried to block the Israeli incursion.
The Palestinian Health Ministry later said the brother was among four people killed and 44 injured during that clash, an unusually high number. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, an armed militia affiliated with Fatah, the secular political party that controls the authority, later said that three of the four men killed were members of the militia, and a fourth belonged to Islamic Jihad. Palestine, a smaller organization. Islamist group.
A photograph posted on social media on Wednesday showed one of the four wearing the uniform of Palestinian military intelligence, an arm of the Palestinian Authority that coordinates with its Israeli counterparts. The authority’s military intelligence commander, Maj. Gen. Zakaria Musleh, did not respond to requests for comment.
Overall, analysts say, the PA’s recent reluctance to take action against armed groups this year is due in part to an unwillingness to attack people with connections to Fatah or the authority itself.
Senior Israeli officials have regularly criticized the authority in recent weeks for not doing enough to crack down on militancy in their control areas, saying Israeli soldiers are being forced to take action instead. In turn, authority officials say the regularity of Israel’s raids is exacerbating the situation and making it difficult for the authority to act without appearing to be an arm of the Israeli state.
Founded after the signing of the Oslo accords in the 1990s, the authority and its security forces coordinate with the Israeli army and police, partly in an effort to build trust ahead of the establishment of a Palestinian state.
But with state hopes all but extinguished, deal draws growing ire from Palestinians, recent polls He showed. Upset by such criticism, some Palestinian security officials have broken ranks over the years, joining the militants they are nominally supposed to watch.
After the fighting on Wednesday, the militants tried to encourage more Palestinian security officials to join them.