The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the men as Sufyan Fakhoury, 26, Nayef Malaisha, 25 and Ahmed Fashafsha, 22, and said they were shot by Israeli fire during the military operation. It said a fourth man was hospitalized with a bullet wound to the head and was in stable condition.
Israeli police released a photo of assault rifles, pistols, ammunition and explosive devices they said troops confiscated in Jaba, just south of the flashpoint city of Jenin. The militant group said the men had shot at Israeli forces from their car. Residents gathered around and inspected the smashed sedan, its seats covered with blood. Jaba’s city center already displays a car charred from an earlier Israeli military raid this year that killed two other militants from the village.
The Jaba militant group, a fledgling militia of disillusioned young Palestinians who have taken up guns against Israel’s occupation, said it opened fire and hurled explosive devices at Israeli forces. Residents said Israeli troops killed three members of the group who had been incarcerated by Israel and had carried out a recent shooting attack at a nearby checkpoint.
The Gaza-based Islamic Jihad issued a veiled threat after the raid, saying its fighters would “respond to deter the enemy and avenge the blood of the martyrs.” Rocket fire from the Gaza Strip has previously followed violence in the West Bank.
The militant group claimed gunmen shot down an Israeli drone during clashes with the army. The Israeli military confirmed a drone was downed and said it was investigating the incident.
The Jaba armed group includes gunmen from various factions, including Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the armed offshoot of the nationalist Fatah party. Militants in the village say that Islamic Jihad supports the group and provides members with weapons.
The group is part of a larger trend of emerging armed groups across the West Bank that have been mounting shooting attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians and opening fire during Israeli raids on their towns, defying the increasingly unpopular Palestinian Authority. In areas of the northern West Bank where much of the fighting has been focused, the PA’s control is receding as young Palestinians’ hopes dim for statehood.
The hardscrabble streets of Jaba teemed with young Palestinians in black chanting against the Israeli occupation and firing into the air as they held the bodies of militants aloft.
Yousef Hammour, a 28-year-old in the funeral procession, said Palestinian rage at Israel has intensified with the stepped-up arrest raids.
“Everyone’s in shock, everyone’s angry,” said Hammour. “Every single day they’re killing more and more of us. If they attack us, we’ll attack them.”
This year has been marked by escalating violence across the West Bank, as Israeli military raids spiral into protracted firefights with armed Palestinians.
Earlier in the week, at least six Palestinians were killed in an Israeli raid in the Jenin refugee camp. The Palestinian Health Ministry said that 14-year-old Walid Nasser died Thursday from wounds suffered in Tuesday’s raid.
At least 74 Palestinians, around half of them affiliated with militant groups, have died in Israel’s raids in the West Bank since the beginning of the year. During the same time 14 people, all but one of them civilians, were killed in Palestinian attacks against Israelis.
Israel captured the West Bank, along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, in the 1967 Mideast war, territories the Palestinians seek for their future state. In the decades since, more than 500,000 Jewish settlers have moved into dozens of settlements, which the international community considers illegal and an obstacle to peace.
Associated Press writers Ilan Ben Zion and Isabel DeBre in Jerusalem contributed to this report.