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Israeli forces kill three Palestinians in large raid in Nablus

Soldiers conduct dawn operation in Balata refugee camp, leading to armed confrontations with residents
The mother of one of the three Palestinians who were killed in an Israeli raid reacts during their funeral in Balata camp, in the occupied West Bank, 22 May 2023 (Reuters)

By Fayha Shalash in Ramallah, occupied Palestine

The Israeli army conducted a large-scale operation in a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank at dawn on Monday, killing three Palestinians and wounding six others.

A large number of Israeli troops, accompanied by bulldozers, raided the Balata refugee camp near the city of Nablus with heavy gunfire, leading to armed confrontations with Palestinians.

The Palestinian health ministry identified the three men killed as Mohammed Zaytoun, 32, Fathi Rizk, 30, and Abdullah Abu Hamdan, 24. One of the wounded is in a critical condition, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.

Witnesses said gunfire and loud explosions rocked the camp, while Israeli forces deployed snipers on rooftops, and prevented ambulances and medical personnel from entering the camp to evacuate the wounded, according to Wafa news agency.

The Israelis also stormed dozens of houses in the camp, vandalising them as they searched their contents.

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"We heard the voices of the soldiers, so we closed the door of the house and sat in the rooms. Just two minutes later, they blew [open] the door and around 50 soldiers stormed our house," Um Ali Awais told Middle East Eye.

"They didn’t allow us to move and were dealing with us as if we were sheep. They put us in one of the rooms and then took us to the kitchen. I felt my heart would stop from fear. They didn't even let me drink water."

Six Palestinians were arrested and taken in handcuffs to military vehicles following the home raids, which included assaults on owners and intimidation of women and children.

"During the raid of the house, we heard heavy gunfire and young men's screams calling for an ambulance. We didn’t know at the time what had happened because we were trapped in our house, but we later learned that three young men were shot dead by the soldiers," Umm Ali said.

At least 117 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank so far this year, with another 34 killed in Gaza. A total of 18 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians over the same period.

"What happened tonight in the Balata refugee camp is a true massacre and a continuation of the total war Israel has declared on the Palestinians," Palestinian presidential spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeineh said.

Local reports said Israeli forces demolished the home of the Abu Shallal family, without notifying neighbouring families, resulting in material damage to surrounding homes and the wounding of two people, including a young girl.

Israeli soldiers prevented ambulances from entering the camp, forcing medical crews to take a longer, alternative route to reach the wounded.

“We received many reports of casualties, but all entrances to the camp were closed... We tried to coordinate through the Red Cross to reach them, but the Israeli occupation forces didn’t respond," Jibril added.

Due to the high number of calls the Red Crescent had received, ambulance crews could no longer wait and were forced to enter at their own peril, with one ambulance coming under Israeli fire.

"We arrived at a house where four people where wounded. Two were in a very serious condition and were declared dead at the hospital, while the other two were stable," Jibril said.

A medical team attempted to save another young man en route to the hospital, but their passage was blocked once again, and the man succumbed to his wounds.

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