Israeli troops clashed with Palestinian gunmen in a refugee camp in the West Bank city of Tulkarem on Thursday morning, with security forces reporting five Border Police officers hurt in the fighting, including three with serious wounds. Two Hamas terrorists were killed in a separate incident.
According to a joint statement from the Israel Defense Forces and Border Police, soldiers exchanged fire with armed Palestinians in the Tulkarem Camp overnight while carrying out an arrest raid, adding the clashes continued as forces left the area in the morning hours.
According to an initial probe, the five officers were hit by shrapnel from a hand grenade hurled by the forces themselves, seriously wounding three of them and moderately hurting the other two.
The grenade had been hurled by an officer toward Palestinian gunmen but hit a metal gate and bounced back. Another officer managed to kick the grenade to the side, moments before it exploded, according to the probe.
All five were evacuated to the hospital for treatment. One of the officers was in a critical condition and doctors at the Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba were fighting to save his life.
Border Police commander Deputy Commissioner Yitzhak Brik vowed the force would not be deterred by the injuries.
“Every terrorist who tries to harm our forces should know we’ll get him and settle the score,” Brik said.
In an earlier statement, the IDF said Palestinians set off a number of explosive devices near troops in Tulkarem.
The IDF also said troops hit a number of armed Palestinians. There was no immediate information on the number of wounded Palestinians and their conditions in Tulkarem.
A local wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group claimed responsibility for targeting the Israeli troops with gunfire and makeshift bombs, publishing photos of blood-soaked items purported to belong to wounded soldiers.
Wishing a speedy recovery to the wounded officers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeated his accusation that Iran is behind a recent series of attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers in the West Bank, many of them deadly.
“We see Iran as directly responsible for the terror wave in Judea and Samaria,” Netanyahu said in a statement, using the biblical names for the West Bank. “The government of Israel will determinedly fight terror and defend Israeli citizens.”
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant also wished the wounded officers a speedy recovery, adding that expresses his “appreciation to the IDF and the security forces for their actions tonight to foil terror throughout Judea and Samaria,” referring to the West Bank by its biblical name.
Separately on Thursday morning, the IDF said Palestinian gunmen opened fire at an Israeli motorist on a nearby highway, close to the settlement of Avnei Hefetz.
Troops of the Golani Brigade’s reconnaissance unit chased after the two suspects, leading to an exchange of fire in which the IDF said the pair was “neutralized” near the entrance to the Palestinian village of Shufa, southeast of Tulkarm.
The Palestinian Authority health ministry said it was notified of the deaths of the two gunmen — Abdul Rahman Faris Muhammad Atta, 23, and Hudhayfah Adnan Muhammad Fares, 27 — indicating their bodies were being held by Israel.
The Hamas terror group later claimed the pair as members.
Soldiers seized an M-16 rifle and magazines found in the suspects’ car, according to the military.
Violence has surged across the West Bank over the past year and a half, with a rise in Palestinian shooting attacks against Israeli civilians and troops, near-nightly arrest raids by the military, and an uptick in revenge attacks by extremist Jewish settlers against Palestinians.
In separate incidents late Wednesday, clashes broke out between Palestinians and IDF troops in the West Bank city of Nablus as Jewish pilgrims visited Joseph’s Tomb, a shrine in the city; a Palestinian was reportedly shot after attacking a civilian Israeli vehicle near the settlement of Ma’ale Levona; and two Palestinians were detained after a firebomb was hurled at a bus near the West Bank town of Azzun.
The IDF said troops also detained 10 wanted Palestinians during overnight raids across the West Bank, with clashes in some areas.
In the Balata refugee camp near Nablus, forces found and demolished a headquarters used by local terror groups to observe Israeli forces with surveillance cameras, the IDF said.
Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank since the beginning of the year have left 27 civilians and three soldiers dead, and several others seriously wounded.
According to a tally by The Times of Israel, 192 West Bank and East Jerusalem Palestinians have been killed during the same period — the majority during clashes with security forces or while carrying out attacks, but some were uninvolved civilians and others were killed under unclear circumstances, including by armed Israeli settlers. PJC