Israeli troops entered a building in the West Bank town of Nablus early this morning, where members of the Hamas militant group were hiding out. A gun battle erupted and four Palestinians were killed, according to Israeli police.
The Palestinian intelligence chief in Nablus said the dead men were indeed Hamas members, but that the four were killed in their sleep.
Israel said there was resistance from the suspected militants and four soldiers were injured. The army found large amounts of explosives in the apartment and arrested nine suspects, according to a spokesman.
Palestinian Cabinet Minister Saeb Erekat denounced the raid as “state terror being waged against the Palestinians.”
Hamas had already renounced the partial truce agreed to last month after Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat asked militant groups for a period of calm.
“Hamas and all the Palestinian people will not be committed to cease-fire after this massacre,” Hamas leader Teissir Imran said Tuesday.
A Hamas leaflet distributed at a Gaza City mosque, called for “an all-out war against the Zionist army and the settlers, by all means and in all places.”
Following the Israeli raid, 2,000 protesters surrounded a Palestinian police headquarters in Nablus demanding the release of more than two dozen detained Hamas members. Authorities released the brother of one of the militants killed in the Israeli raid.
However, Palestinian police fired live rounds, tear gas and stun grenades into the crowd after it pushed into the compound throwing rocks and burning police cars. Two protesters were wounded, one critically.
Gunman opens fire in Jerusalem
Also today, a gunman opened fire on a busy street in downtown Jerusalem, wounding at least 20 people before being shot dead by police.
News reports identified the gunman as Saeed Ramadan, a 24-year-old Palestinian and a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a group linked to Arafat’s Fatah party. Ramadan’s uncle, Adnan Ramadan, mayor of the West Bank village of Tel, confirmed to the Associated Press his nephew was the gunman.
The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility for a shooting last Thursday at a reception hall that killed six Israelis. The group said the attacks were to avenge the death of Raed Karmi, the Al Aqsa Brigades leader killed early last week by a bomb blast at his hideout in the West Bank town of Tulkarem.
“I can’t stand in front of the friends of Raed Karmi and tell them not to avenge his blood,” Hussein al-Sheik, Fatah’s leader in the West Bank, told Israel radio.
Israel has not taken responsibility for the explosion, but had targeted Karmi in the past. Palestinians say Israel murdered Karmi to wreck peace negotiations.
Israel, which occupied the town of Tulkarem for 30 hours beginning early Monday, pulled out today. Israeli tanks left the city of 50,000 after soldiers searched several Palestinian government offices and arrested several militants. One Palestinian was killed and 15 wounded in gun battles with Israeli forces.
The occupation was the first time Israel took control of an entire major town since Palestinian self-rule began in 1994.
Israel said the seizure was a necessary step to round up militants responsible for recent anti-Israeli attacks.
Palestinian leader Arafat said the action “crossed all red lines.
“Our people will never keep silence about all of these Israeli attacks,” Arafat said. Israeli tanks have surrounded Arafat’s headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah since Friday.