JERUSALEM, Israel – Israel’s military said it carried out a series of raids early Sunday morning targeting Hamas terrorists operating in the West Bank – biblical Judea and Samaria.
Five Palestinians were killed and two Israeli troops were seriously injured amid a pair of gun battles during the raids.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said they were tracking the Hamas terrorists for weeks based on “accurate intelligence” that they were planning on “carrying out attacks against Israeli civilians.”
“This is a significant achievement, a night of a series of pre-emptive raids of the utmost importance that prevented — from our understanding — significant terror attacks. Such attacks could have been carried out in Jerusalem, Netanya, Tel Aviv, Afula or anywhere else,” IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi said on Sunday.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett applauded Israeli forces and said the terrorists were planning to carry out attacks “in real time.”
Hamas confirmed that four of the Palestinians killed during the raids were members of the Islamist group. Palestinian officials said a 16-year-old boy was among the dead, but it was not immediately clear if he was a Hamas member.
The two IDF soldiers who were injured during the raids were airlifted to a nearby hospital for treatment. Israeli forces suspect they may have been hit by friendly fire after a Palestinian gunman opened fire on them, Israeli media reported.
Hamas vowed to take revenge and called on supporters to take up arms “to avenge to the blood of the martyrs.”
“This crime calls on everyone who bears arms in the West Bank and Jerusalem to direct this weapon at the heart of the Israeli occupation and the Zionist soldiers,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum.
The Palestinian Authority (PA), which governs the semi-autonomous West Bank, condemned the raids and said Israel was “fully and directly responsible for this bloody morning and the crimes committed by the occupation forces.”
But Hamas criticized the PA, claiming that recent high-level meetings between PA and Israeli officials “encouraged” Israel to carry out the raids. The Palestinian Authority coordinates with Israel in security operations against their common enemy Hamas.
This was the deadliest violence between Israel and Palestinians in the West Bank in weeks. Tensions are also high in the region following an 11-day war between Israel and the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip in May.