An uncommon drone strike authorised by Israel in the occupied West Bank has resulted in the deaths of three Palestinian militants, amplifying the tension in the volatile territory.
Israel’s military released a statement confirming the drone operation targeted “a terror cell in a suspicious vehicle”, responsible for a shooting attack near Jalama on Wednesday evening. This drone attack marks the first such operation in the West Bank since 2006, underscoring the escalating crisis.
Palestinian first responders on the scene reportedly discovered three bodies in the scorched remnants of a vehicle, though Israeli soldiers obstructed their removal.
Palestinian news agency, Wafa, identified the deceased as Mohammed Bashar Uweis, 28, Suhayb Adnan al-Ghoul, 27, and Ashraf Murad Saadi, 17, all residents of the city of Jenin.
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), confirmed that Ghoul and Saadi were members of their organisation, while Uweis was associated with the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, the armed division of the Fatah movement.
In response to the drone strike, PIJ warned Israel’s decision-makers that they would “bear the consequences for their imprudent decision to utilise drone strikes against these operatives, and to retain their bodies”.
Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant retorted via Twitter, stating, “We’ll adopt an assertive and proactive stance against terror, utilise all means within our reach, and exact the heaviest price from each terrorist.”
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) conveyed that its soldiers had identified a vehicle transporting gunmen who had previously perpetrated a shooting at a checkpoint near Jalama, a town approximately 3.5km north of Jenin.
The IDF further stated, “The terror cell had undertaken several shooting attacks towards communities in Judea and Samaria recently”, using the biblical names for the West Bank. “Upon identification of the terror cell, an IDF UAV [Unmanned Aerial Vehicle] targeted the cell and neutralised them.”
Local residents reported hearing gunfire immediately preceding the drone strike.
Nasser Torokman, a local resident, told Reuters news agency, “We heard the bullets, then an explosion. There was a fire and a burning car.”
Social media was awash with video footage showing several emergency vehicles near the fiery wreck of the targeted vehicle.
This drone strike occurred mere hours after a Palestinian man was shot dead amidst a violent outburst by hundreds of Israeli settlers who set fire to homes and cars in the town of Turmusaya, about 50km south.
The Palestinian health ministry stated the man was shot by Israeli forces “during a confrontation with the settlers”. In contrast, Israel’s paramilitary border police said its forces were providing security for firefighters when locals “rioted”, and troops returned fire when shot at.
The violence in Turmusaya followed the funeral of a 17-year-old boy in a nearby settlement, one of four Israelis killed by two Palestinian gunmen from Hamas at a petrol station and restaurant on Tuesday.
Hamas, in turn, justified the shooting as a reprisal to an Israeli military raid in Jenin on Monday, during which seven Palestinians were killed. It was the first incident in years where an Apache attack helicopter was used by IDF in the West Bank, firing missiles at militants who had attacked troop carriers with explosives, resulting in injuries to seven soldiers.
Image Caption: Ammar Awad at Reuters