Israeli troops on Thursday killed three Palestinian militants wanted in connection with a shooting attack that killed a British-Israeli woman and two of her daughters, the Israeli military said, the latest bloodshed in a relentless wave of violence.
In a rare daytime incursion launched as residents were starting their day, the military said forces entered the heart of the flashpoint city of Nablus and raided an apartment where the men were located. Troops and the suspects exchanged fire and the three men were killed.
The military said the men were behind an attack last month on a car near a Jewish West Bank settlement that killed the British-Israeli mother and two of her daughters.
It said two of the men were members of the Hamas militant group. It described the third man killed as a senior operative who had assisted the other suspects.
In a statement after the raid, Hamas claimed all three men, identified as Hassan Qatnani, Moaz al-Masri and Ibrahim Jabr, as members and claimed responsibility for the April attack.
Israeli shells ripped through the roof of the gunmen's safe house in the heart of Nablus' Old City, leaving nothing but twisted metal, cement blocks and torn mattresses still stained with blood scattered over the rubble. A couple hours after the army withdrew, young men collected scores of ejected bullet shell casings from the narrow alleys.
The violence in Nablus comes at a particularly sensitive time in the region, days after a prominent Palestinian prisoner who was staging a lengthy hunger strike over his detention died in Israeli custody. His death set off a volley of rockets from militants in Gaza and Israeli airstrikes in the coastal enclave that killed one man.
The deadly attack last month on the Israeli car shocked Israelis because in an instant it reduced the Dee family from seven members to four. Hundreds of people packed the funerals and the family's father, Leo, has been a recurring figure in Israeli media, saying he bears no hatred toward the killers of his family and calling for national unity amid a deep societal rift.
Israeli officials said the raid showed attackers would be hunted down eventually.
Our message to those who harmed us, and to those who are trying to harm us, it'll take a day, a week or a month be certain that we will make you pay, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.
Israel has been staging near-nightly arrest raids into West Bank villages, towns and cities for more than a year in an operation prompted by a wave of Palestinian attacks against Israelis last year.
Israel says the raids are meant to dismantle militant networks and thwart future attacks. The Palestinians see the attacks as further entrenchment of Israel's 56-year, open-ended occupation of lands they seek for a future independent state.
The raids have been met by a surge in Palestinian attacks.
Some 250 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the raids were launched. Israel says most have been militants, but stone-throwing youth and people not involved in the confrontations have also been killed.
During that same time, nearly 50 people have been killed in Palestinian attacks against Israelis. (AP) GRS 05041509