Israeli forces have killed three Palestinian militants in a West Bank raid linked to a suicide bombing attack. The incident threatened to scuttle a fresh truce and fuel a new round of violence.
Israeli forces encircled a house in the West Bank town of Qabatiyeh last night and killed two militants, including Jihad Zakarne, an Islamic Jihad member whom Israel accused of planning a deadly suicide bombing last week, witnesses and Palestinian security officials said.
Israel Radio reported Israeli troops killed a third Palestinian who was planting a bomb nearby. The Israeli military had no comment.
Islamic Jihad threatened revenge. In a statement from Gaza, the militant group threatened to hit Israeli towns near Gaza and called on “Palestinian factions to be united to confront the Zionist campaign against the Islamic Jihad and the Palestinian people in the West Bank.”
Palestinians reported hearing the sound of small explosions like rockets in northern Gaza, but the military said nothing landed in Israel.
It was just such an escalation that an informal agreement between Israeli and Palestinian authorities was designed to stop. Before the West Bank raid, officials on both sides said there was agreement to end the latest round of Palestinian rocket fire and Israeli air strikes and artillery shelling.
Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a top adviser to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, said Israel and the Palestinians had agreed to stop the latest hostilities after US intervention.
“Both sides have agreed to stop the escalation,” he said.
An Israeli government official said “there appears to be an understanding” for both sides to halt the fighting, though no official agreement was in place. He declined to be identified because he was not authorised to discuss the matter. He said Israel would stop its operations when the Palestinians stop their attacks.
At stake for the Palestinians is the economic survival of Gaza. With violence simmering, Israel has kept a tight hold on the exits from the coastal strip, citing security concerns.
The main Rafah crossing from Gaza to Egypt has been closed for most of the time since Israel withdrew from Gaza last month in the absence of an agreement on how to handle security. Vital cargo and worker crossings with Israel have also been closed off and on by the Israelis. Yesterday it reopened two of them, shut since the suicide bomb attack killed five Israelis on Wednesday, reports Ireland OnLine. I.L.