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Israeli forces kill 11 Palestinians in 'merciless' Nablus raid

Deadly operation prompts rare reaction from Hamas military leader, who warns that patience of Palestinian resistance in Gaza 'is wearing thin'
Palestinians carry away a wounded man during an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus, 22 February (AFP)
Palestinians carry away a wounded man during an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus, 22 February (AFP)
By Fayha Shalash in Ramallah, occupied Palestine

Israeli forces killed 11 Palestinians, including a child and three elderly people, and wounded more than 100 others on Wednesday during a military raid in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus.

More than 60 Israeli military vehicles stormed Nablus at around 10am local time after an undercover force was spotted in the historic Old City, eyewitnesses told Middle East Eye.

Nablus resident Nabeela Suliman was walking in a market with her daughter when she heard the sounds of explosions and people started shouting that a major Israeli incursion had started.

'With every incursion the Israeli soldiers start shooting mercilessly towards anyone who moves'

– Ibtihal Mansour, eyewitness

"It was very scary... We could hear the sounds of explosions and people screaming in the street, and many of us started crying and praying to God to protect the city and its residents," Suliman told MEE.

The raid, which lasted for four hours, focused on a building in the city that reportedly housed Palestinian resistance fighters.

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Israeli forces besieged the house and fired missiles at the building, while Israeli snipers were seen stationed in the surrounding area. A military helicopter was also spotted flying over the city. 

Palestinian media said two fighters - Hussam Bassam Aslim, 24, and Mohammed Omar Abu Bakr, 23 - were inside the house and refused to surrender. 

In an alleged recording by Aslim that was shared on social media after the raid started, he is purportedly heard saying: "We're in trouble, but we won't surrender ourselves. We won't hand over our weapons. I'll die as a martyr. Keep carrying weapons after us."

The Israeli military confirmed it conducted an operation in Nablus to arrest three people for allegedly planning and carrying out attacks against Israeli targets in recent months. It added that it shot back when coming under fire and after people threw explosives and Molotov cocktails towards troops.  

​The Lions' Den armed group said in a statement via its Telegram page that its fighters engaged Israeli forces in armed clashes alongside other armed groups in the city, including the "Balata Brigade" and the "Nablus Brigade". 

According to the Palestinian health ministry, 10 people were killed in the raid. The Lions' Den said six of them, including Aslim and Abu Bakr, were fighters. 

The pair are affiliated with the Lions' Den, which has grown in prominence over the past year as deadly Israeli crackdowns in the occupied West Bank have intensified.

The other nine dead named by the ministry are Adnan Sabe Baara, 72, Anan Shawkat Enab, 66, Abd el-Aziz al-Ashqar, 61, Mohammad Farid Shaban, 16, Tamer Nimr Minwai, 33, Mohamed Khaled Anbousi, 25, Mosaab Muneer Owais, 26, Waleed Riad Dakheel, 23, and Jaser Jameel Qenaer, 23.  

'The [Palestinian resistance's]... patience is wearing thin'

– Abu Obaida, Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades' spokesman

The deadly raid has prompted a rare reaction from Abu Obaida, the spokesman for Hamas' armed wing the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, who tends to make public statements only at a time of war. 

"The Palestinian resistance in Gaza is closely monitoring the Israeli occupation's repeated crimes against the Palestinian people in the occupied West Bank and its patience is wearing thin," Abu Obaida said. 

Palestinian factions strongly condemned the raid, calling it a "barbaric massacre", and said they held Israel responsible for the consequences.  

'Shooting mercilessly'

Eyewitness Ibtihal Mansour said that once the undercover force was spotted in the city, the military immediately sent reinforcements and started firing live bullets, teargas and sound bombs.

Suliman told MEE she quickly hid in a shop when Israeli forces began firing live rounds. Dozens of Palestinians choked on the teargas, most of them women and children, but ambulance crews were blocked from reaching them, she added. 

“The Israeli incursion took place at peak time when the area was most crowded as it is located in the centre of the city, and is considered the living nerve of old Nablus,” Mansour said.

Mansour painted a shocking picture of what unfolded on the ground, with the bodies of the wounded and dead strewn across the street, their wounds concentrated on the upper half of their body, mainly the head and chest. First aid responders were unable to approach wounded people lying in the street, with many bleeding out, she added.

“My three children are in school and I cannot reach them to take them home. I am very worried about them, because with every incursion the Israeli soldiers start shooting mercilessly towards anyone who moves,” Mansour said, in tears.

Palestinian youths hurl paint and rocks at an Israeli military vehicle during a raid in Nablus on 22 February 2023 (Reuters)
Palestinian youths hurl paint and rocks at an Israeli military vehicle during a raid in Nablus on 22 February 2023 (Reuters)

A similar Israeli raid in neighbouring city Jenin took place late last month, in which 10 Palestinians were killed. Many Palestinians say such large operations during the day are reminiscent of Israeli violence during the Second Intifada

A day after the Jenin raid, a Palestinian man shot and killed seven Israelis in occupied East Jerusalem. 

Israeli forces have killed 59 Palestinians this year, at a rate of more than one fatality per day. It follows an increase in violence recorded in 2022, with at least 167 Palestinians killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the highest death toll in those territories in a single year since the Second Intifada.

Meanwhile, Palestinians killed 30 Israelis last year and 10 this year. 

UN experts previously condemned Israel for the record levels of violence in 2022 and warned that an even higher number of casualties could be recorded this year. 

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director, William Burns, warned earlier this month that current tensions bear an "unhappy resemblance" to the Second Intifada and efforts to prevent "explosions of violence" are a challenge.

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