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Israeli Troops Kill 5 Palestinians     09/27 06:02


   JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israeli troops conducted a series of arrest raids against 
suspected Hamas militants across the occupied West Bank early Sunday, sparking 
a pair of gun battles in which five Palestinians were killed and two Israeli 
soldiers were seriously wounded.

   It was the deadliest violence between Israeli forces and Palestinian 
militants in the West Bank in several weeks. The region has seen an increase in 
fighting in recent months, with tensions fueled by Israeli settlement 
construction, heightened militant activity in the northern West Bank and the 
aftermath of a bloody war between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip 
last May.

   The Israeli military said it had been tracking the Hamas militants for 
several weeks and that the raids were launched in response to immediate threats.

   Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the militants were about to 
carry out attacks "in real time." He praised the Israeli forces, saying they 
acted "as expected. They engaged the enemy and we back them completely."

   In a statement, the military said it launched five simultaneous raids and 
soldiers opened fire after being shot at in two locations. It said five 
militants were killed and several others were arrested.

   It also said an officer and a soldier were seriously injured, possibly 
inadvertently by Israeli fire.

   The Palestinian Health Ministry said two Palestinians were shot dead near 
the northern West Bank city of Jenin and three others were killed in Biddu, 
north of Jerusalem.

   Hamas confirmed that four of the dead, including all three killed in Biddu, 
were members of the Islamic militant group. Palestinian officials said a 
16-year-old boy was also among the dead, though it was not immediately known if 
he was a militant.

   The Palestinian Authority, which administers semi-autonomous areas in the 
West Bank, condemned the killings and said the Israeli government was "fully 
and directly responsible for this bloody morning and the crimes committed by 
the occupation forces."

   But Hamas also criticized the Palestinian Authority, which maintains 
security coordination with Israel in a shared struggle against the Islamic 

   Hamas spokesman Abdulatif al-Qanou said that recent meetings between 
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli officials "encouraged the 
occupation again to pursue the resistance."

   Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip after seizing it from the Palestinian 
Authority in 2007, praised those killed as "heroic martyrs." It called on its 
supporters to "devise tactics and means that harm the enemy and drain it with 
all possible forms of resistance."

   Also Sunday, Israel released Khalida Jarrar, a prominent Palestinian 
lawmaker, after nearly two years in prison. Jarrar, a senior figure in the 
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, has been in and out of Israeli 
prisons for years -- often without being charged.

   The PFLP has an armed wing and is considered a terrorist group by Israel and 
Western countries, but Jarrar has not been implicated in attacks. She was 
sentenced to two years in prison in March for membership in a banned group but 
given credit for time already served. She was freed several weeks before her 
sentence was to end.

   Recent months have seen a rise in violence in the West Bank, with more than 
two dozen Palestinians killed in sporadic clashes with Israeli troops and 
during protests.

   Many of the clashes have occurred near Beita, a Palestinian village where 
residents regularly demonstrate against an unauthorized settlement outpost, and 
near Jenin, which is known as a militant stronghold.

   Last month, Israeli troops clashed with Palestinian gunmen during a late 
night raid in Jenin, killing four Palestinians. Sunday's clashes came a week 
after Israel recaptured the last of six Palestinian fugitives who tunneled out 
of a maximum-security Israeli prison earlier this month. The escapees were from 
Jenin, and two were caught there after an extensive search.

   Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war and has established 
dozens of settlements where nearly 500,000 settlers reside. The Palestinians 
seek the West Bank as part of their future state and view the settlements as a 
major obstacle to resolving the conflict.

   Meanwhile in New York, Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met Sunday 
evening with officials from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to mark this 
month's first anniversary of Israel's relations with the two Arab countries. 
The so-called Abraham Accords -- signed under the Trump administration -- have 
led to the opening of embassies, the launch of direct flights and a raft of 
agreements to boost economic ties.

   Speaking to Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani and 
UAE Minister of State in the Foreign Ministry Khalifa Shaheen Almarar, Bennett 
said he wanted to assure them of continuity of the agreements since he replaced 
Benjamin Netanyahu.

   "We believe in this relationship and we want to expand it as much as 
possible," Bennett said.

   The Israeli prime minister is to address the U.N. General Assembly's annual 
meeting of world leaders on Monday morning.

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