According to Israeli and Palestinian reports, three Palestinians were killed during an army operation in the West Bank on Wednesday.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said one of the men was suspected of being involved in terrorist activities. According to the Israeli military, they wanted to arrest him, and had surrounded his house in the Nur Shams refugee camp in Tulkarm city in the north-western West Bank.
The other two people killed had tried to escape from the building. The military’s claims could not initially be independently verified.
The IDF also fired rockets at the house, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah. The authorities reported two deaths.
The armed wing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party in the West Bank said that the three victims were members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. One of the men is said to have been a commander.
A general strike was called in Tulkarm on Thursday.
The situation in the West Bank has worsened significantly since the start of the war between Israel and the the Palestinian militant organization Hamas in the Gaza Strip on October 7.
According to the Ministry of Health, around 370 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank since then. More than 60 Palestinians have been killed in West Bank confrontations with the Israeli military or militant Israeli settlers since the beginning of the year.
Israel took control of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War. Hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers now live there, surrounded by around 3 million Palestinians, who have Western backing to form their own state in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, fierce fighting and renewed attacks by Israel in the south of the Gaza Strip continued.
The Israeli army said on Wednesday that “armed terrorist cells” had been eliminated and numerous weapons had been seized. It went on to say that paratroopers had “killed dozens of terrorists in Khan Younis over the past 24 hours.”
In one incident in the west of Khan Younis, soldiers encountered three gunmen who fired anti-tank missiles at them. The three men and “several other terror operatives” were killed in close-quarter combat.
Hamas’ armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, also described an attack on Israeli soldiers in the west of Khan Younis on Wednesday.
The United Nations expressed concern about the fate of the civilian population as Israeli ground troops advanced towards the city of Rafah, which lies on the border with Egypt.
“Their living conditions are abysmal — they lack the basic necessities to survive, stalked by hunger, disease and death,” said UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths in Geneva on Wednesday evening.
According to UN figures, more than 1 million people are now living in cramped conditions in the city in the south of the Gaza Strip. That is four times as many as before the Gaza war started on October 7.
The war was triggered by the worst massacre in Israel’s history, carried out by fighters from Hamas and other extremist Palestinian organizations on October 7 in Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip. More than 1,200 people were killed on the Israeli side.
Israel responded with massive airstrikes and a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip.
According to Palestinian figures, more than 27,500 people have died in the Gaza Strip since then, Griffiths said. Further fighting in Rafah would cost even more lives. It would also make the already difficult humanitarian aid operations more difficult.
“To put it simply: This war must stop.”