JERUSALEM — At least 11 people were killed and scores more were wounded in a rare daytime arrest operation by Israeli troops that triggered fighting in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian officials said Wednesday.
The Israeli military on Thursday said Palestinian militants fired six rockets from the Gaza Strip toward the country’s south hours after the raid.
Israel’s military said Thursday morning that Israeli fighter jets conducted strikes in Gaza in response, hitting what it said was weapons manufacturing site and military compound belonging to the group Hamas.
The rocket attacks were not immediately claimed by Palestinian militant groups. Air defenses intercepted five of the rockets which were fired toward the cities of Ashkelon and Sderot, the military said, and one missile landed in an open field. There were no reports of damage or casualties.
In Wednesday's raid, a 72-year-old man was among those killed dead, and 102 people were wounded, the Palestinian Health Ministry said in a statement after the raid in the Old City of Nablus. Six of the wounded were in critical condition, the statement said.
Anan Shawkat Annab, 66, died of tear gas suffocation, the ministry said.
The Israeli military said in a statement that it entered the city to arrest three wanted militants suspected in previous shooting attacks in the West Bank. It said it tracked down the men in a hideout.
“After surrounding the building, the security forces asked the suspects to turn themselves in. After they declined and fired at the forces, the security forces operated in order to thwart the terrorist squad,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.
One of the suspects fled the building and was killed, it said. The two other suspects were killed in a shootout, the statement said. Other people hurled rocks and explosives at the troops, the statement said, adding that there were no Israeli casualties.
The IDF also released photos of what it said were two automatic rifles confiscated in the raid.
Palestinian militant groups claimed three of the dead as members. There was no immediate word on whether the others belonged to armed groups, according to The Associated Press.
Hussam Badran, a member of the Hamas political bureau said the "aggression" would "backfire against the occupation."
“The strikes of the occupation only increase the strength and adherence of our resistance to the rights of our people to defend themselves, their land and their sanctities, foremost of which is the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Badran said.
Israeli police said Wednesday it would reinforce its units at the border with the West Bank and in major cities.
The raid, coupled with the high death toll, raised the prospect of further bloodshed. A similar raid last month was followed by a deadly Palestinian attack outside a Jerusalem synagogue.
“Our patience is running out,” Abu Obeida, a spokesman for Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades — the military wing of Hamas in charge of the Gaza Strip — said Wednesday on Telegram. He added that the resistance was “watching the enemy’s escalating crimes against our people in the occupied West Bank.”
Last month, Israeli troops killed 10 militants in a similar raid in the northern West Bank. A day later, in one of the deadliest attacks on Israelis in recent years, at least seven people were shot dead at a synagogue in east Jerusalem, Israeli police said.
The raid came exactly a week after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government passed a law that would allow authorities to strip citizenship or residency from people who have been jailed and given Palestinian money for actions regarded as terrorism.
At least 55 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank and east Jerusalem this year, which could exceed last year’s death toll, according to the AP.
Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed last year in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, making it the deadliest year in those areas since 2004, according to figures from the Israeli rights group B’Tselem.
Last year, 29 people were killed by Palestinians in Israel, east Jerusalem and the West Bank, according to Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry. Twenty-three civilians — including a child — and six members of Israel’s security forces died.
Israeli forces routinely conduct raids in the occupied West Bank even though the Palestinian Authority has full control over administrative and security issues in the area.
Israeli officials said that of the 11 killed on Wednesday, eight were classed as militants.
Israel says that most of those killed in recent raids have been militants but that others — including youths protesting the incursions and other people not involved in confrontations — have also died. An AP tally has found that just under half of those killed belonged to militant groups.
Israel says the military raids are meant to dismantle militant networks and thwart future attacks; the Palestinians view them as further entrenchment of Israel’s open-ended, 55-year occupation.
Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, territories the Palestinians seek for their hoped-for independent state, in the 1967 Mideast war.
Lawahez Jabari reported from Jerusalem and Aina J. Khan from London.