Israeli forces kill 3 Palestinians, raising fears of Ramadan clashes

JERUSALEM (AP) – Israeli forces shot dead three Palestinian militants in the occupied West Bank early Saturday, an operation that fueled lingering fears of a flare-up in violence between Israel and the Palestinians during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Tensions have risen in recent days after Palestinian raiders killed 11 Israelis in separate attacks across the country. Israeli forces have tightened security and launched arrest raids in the West Bank, killing two Palestinians during a firefight on Thursday. Another Palestinian was killed on Thursday after stabbing and injuring an Israeli on a West Bank bus.

Israeli police officers are weeping for their slain colleague: one of five killed by a Palestinian gunman in a crowded city in central Israel late Tuesday, the second spree of mass shootings this week. (AP Photo/Ariel Shalit)

Israel Police said the three militants were members of a cell involved in recent attacks on Israeli forces and planning another attack, which was foiled during the joint operation with the military and intelligence early Saturday.

Live video from witnesses on social media showed crowds of Palestinians inspecting the scene of the clashes near the city of Jenin after Israeli troops withdrew. The street was covered with bloodstains and the men chanted revenge slogans.

Palestine TV reported that Israeli forces confiscated the bodies of the dead militants.

Earlier, after a Palestinian was killed in the city of Hebron in clashes that broke out after Friday prayers.

The Health Ministry said Ahmed al-Atrash, 29, was killed in Hebron on Friday. The Israeli military said its troops shot dead a Palestinian who threw an incendiary bomb at them.

Palestinian Manal Abu Atiyeh, seated in the middle, is comforted by relatives during the funeral of her son Sanad Abu Atiyeh, 17, in the West Bank's Jenin refugee camp, Jenin, Thursday, March 31, 2022.  Israeli forces raided a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank early Thursday, sparking a firefight that killed two Palestinians and wounded 15, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.  (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
Palestinian Manal Abu Atiyeh, seated in the middle, is comforted by relatives during the funeral of her son Sanad Abu Atiyeh, 17, in the West Bank’s Jenin refugee camp, Jenin, Thursday, March 31, 2022. Israeli forces raided a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank early Thursday, sparking a firefight that killed two Palestinians and wounded 15, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

Several hundred Jewish settlers live under heavy military protection in the heart of Hebron, a city of more than 200,000 Palestinians and home to an important holy site sacred to Jews and Muslims.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Ambulance Service said dozens of Palestinians have been injured during weekly demonstrations elsewhere in the West Bank, where protesters often throw stones and firebombs at Israeli troops, who fire tear gas, rubber-coated bullets and sometimes live rounds.

More than 30,000 people attended Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in east Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam, on the eve of Ramadan, which begins this weekend, according to authorities. There were no reports of protests or violence.

The hill on which the mosque sits is the holiest site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount, and was a frequent flashpoint in the centuries-old conflict.

Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian leaders have engaged in a variety of talks in recent weeks, and Israel has made a series of goodwill gestures, all aimed at defusing tensions ahead of Ramadan. They hope to avoid a repeat of last year, when protests and clashes in Jerusalem ignited an 11-day Gaza war and Jewish-Arab violence in Israel’s mixed cities during Ramadan.

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