Israeli forces kill four Palestinians in West Bank, Jerusalem clashes, medics say

By Ali Sawafta

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – Israeli forces killed four Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem on Thursday, the Palestinian health ministry said, including an Islamic Jihad militant and a man accused by police of stabbing an officer.

The other two fatalities were shot dead by troops during West Bank raids, the ministry said.

Violence in territories where Palestinians seek statehood has surged in recent months after Israel launched a crackdown in response to a spate of lethal street attacks in its cities.

The security situation was among factors contributing to far-right gains in an Israeli election on Tuesday that put conservative former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on track to return to power. [L8N31Z3LA]

Pressing their crackdown, Israeli commandos raided the northern West Bank town of Jenin, killing the Islamic Jihad militant at a butchershop, locals said. His faction called the operation "a cowardly assassination".

Another Palestinian who was not claimed by any factions was killed in Jenin and four others wounded, the health ministry said. The Israeli military confirmed its forces were operating in the city but did not immediately offer further comment or confirm the two deaths.

Overnight, Israeli forces raided Beit Duqu, the West Bank hometown of a Palestinian who was shot dead on Wednesday while carrying out a car-ramming and stabbing attack that wounded an Israeli army officer.

Palestinians hurled rocks and petrol bombs at the soldiers, who responded with riot-dispersal means and live fire, the army said. A 45-year-old Palestinian man was killed, the ministry said.

In Jerusalem's Old City, Israeli police said a Palestinian stabbed an officer while undergoing a security search. Officers shot the assailant dead, police said, describing him as a resident of East Jerusalem.

Palestinian authorities had no immediate comment.

Medics said one officer suffered a bullet wound, which Israeli media described as a result of stray gunfire.

The incident took place near Al Aqsa, a major mosque and icon of Palestinian nationalism. It is also a vestige of two ancient Jewish temples, where rightist Israelis want Jewish prayers permitted – a provocation in the eyes of many Muslims.

(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi and Henriette Chacar; Editing by Robert Birsel and Nick Macfie)

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