(Reuters) - Israeli forces raided a Palestinian village close to the West Bank city of Jenin on Thursday, killing three militants they said were suspected of carrying out shooting attacks in the area.
Islamic Jihad claimed the three, who the Israeli military said were suspected of multiple shooting attacks in Jaba village, southwest of Jenin, where two Islamic Jihad gunmen were killed in January, as well as in the area of the nearby Jewish settlement of Homesh.
The incident came on the same day U.S. Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin was visiting Israel, where he was expected to discuss the growing violence on the West Bank, which has seen repeated Israeli raids and attacks on Israeli civilians by Palestinians.
Residents said they heard intense gunfire early in the morning and saw a large Israeli force in the streets, where the blood-spattered wreckage of the car remained in the street.
A Israeli statement said the gunmen had opened fire from their car when Israeli forces entered the area. It said two members of Islamic Jihad were killed as well as what it described as an additional armed suspect.
Police seized two rifles and another gun as well as explosive devices and arrested three other suspects. According to Noaman Khalileya, owner of a local garage near to where the incident took place, security forces also confiscated his security camera and erased pictures on his mobile telephone.
The operation came days after Israeli forces raided a refugee camp in Jenin and killed six Palestinian gunmen, including a Hamas member suspected of killing two brothers from a Jewish settlement in the West Bank on Feb. 26.
The Palestinian health ministry said a 14-year-old boy, wounded during the gunbattle that broke out in Jenin during the Israeli raid, had died of his wounds.
Israeli forces have conducted near daily raids across the West Bank for months, making thousands of arrests and killing more than 200 Palestinians, including both fighters and civilians. Over the same period, more than 40 Israelis have been killed in attacks by Palestinians.
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