Israeli forces killed two Palestinians on Thursday in raids in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Health Ministry said, during what the Israeli army described as “counterterrorism activities”.
The latest incident in a spate of violence over the past two weeks took place before dawn in two towns in the Jenin area, where residents said Israeli forces carried out arrests.
An Israeli army spokesperson said soldiers “responded with live ammunition” after “dozens of Palestinians violently attacked the soldiers, shot at the forces, and hurled IEDs (improvised explosive devices) at them, endangering their safety”.
Four more Palestinians were wounded, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. No Israeli casualties were reported.
The Israeli military stepped up its raids in the West Bank following attacks by two Palestinians from the territory and three members of Israel’s Arab minority that have killed 14 people in Israel since late March.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has said there will be no restrictions on security forces battling what he has described as “a new wave of terrorism”.
At least 25 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since January.
On Wednesday, Israeli soldiers shot dead three Palestinians in the West Bank, among them a teenager and an anti-settlement lawyer, prompting protest strikes in the cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem on Thursday.
Senior Palestinian Authority official Hussein Al-Sheikh said on Twitter the international community had “lost its credibility as a result of its silence” in the face of what he described as daily Palestinian bloodshed by Israeli “occupation forces”.
Armed Palestinian groups threatened to retaliate.
“There is no way to deter the occupation and block its crimes except through comprehensive resistance and confrontation,” Gaza’s Islamic Jihad said in a statement. The group’s leaders hinted that Israeli military action in the West Bank could draw rocket attacks from Gaza.
Tensions are high in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan coincides with Passover this year.
Last year saw nightly clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police during the fasting month. Threats of Palestinian displacement in East Jerusalem and police raids at Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam, helped ignite an 11-day Israel-Gaza war that killed more than 250 Palestinians in Gaza and 13 people in Israel.
Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem – territories where Palestinians seek statehood – in the 1967 Middle East war. The last round of peace talks collapsed in 2014.