At least 11 Palestinians have been killed and dozens wounded in an Israeli army raid in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus.
At least 102 people were also injured on Wednesday – 82 hit by live ammunition, according to the Palestinian health ministry. Six were in critical condition. A 66-year-old man who suffered from gas inhalation during the raid died in hospital later on Wednesday, the ministry said.
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Widespread confrontations broke out soon after the army stormed Nablus with dozens of armoured vehicles and special forces at 10am (08:00 GMT).
The army blocked off all entrances to the city before surrounding a home with two wanted Palestinian fighters, Hossam Isleem and Mohammad Abdulghani, who were both killed.
The Lions’ Den armed group said in a statement it engaged in clashes with Israeli forces during the raid, alongside the recently announced Balata Brigades. Young Palestinians pelted armoured troop transports with rocks.
The Israeli army said “security forces are now operating in the city of Nablus” but did not provide further details.
Reporting from Nablus, Al Jazeera’s Nida Ibrahim said witnesses described Israeli soldiers opening fire indiscriminately.
“We are hearing stories that Israeli forces were shooting at the neighbours, people in their houses, people going about their daily lives. Palestinians say Israel is acting this way because it is not being held accountable and has a freehand killing Palestinians,” Ibrahim said.
Nablus and nearby Jenin have been the focus of violent incursions that Israel has intensified over the past year. The cities are where “the concentration of armed resistance is growing”, according to Palestinian journalist Mariam Barghouti of the news site Mondoweiss.
“Even though it is expanding to other areas of the West Bank, the Lion’s Den and the Jenin Brigade continue to be the epicentre of Palestinian armed resistance and new youth groups fighting, which is why they have become a target,” Barghouti told Al Jazeera.
In the Old City of Nablus, people stared at the rubble that had been a large home with nearby shops riddled with bullet holes. Parked cars were crushed. Blood stained the cement and furniture from the destroyed home was scattered among mounds of debris.
In the Gaza Strip, a spokesman for the governing Hamas party issued a veiled threat. “The resistance in Gaza is observing the enemy’s escalating crimes against our people in the occupied West Bank, and its patience is running out,” said Abu Obeida.
Palestinian political parties announced a general strike in the cities of Ramallah and Nablus on Wednesday in response, calling on Palestinians to come out in protest near Israeli army checkpoints.
The number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces since the start of 2023 has now risen to 61 people, including 13 children, in the occupied territories.
“We condemn the occupation’s raid into Nablus and we call for an end to the continued attacks against our people,” said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesperson for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
An amateur video posted online showed two young men running down a street. Gunshots are heard and both fall to the ground with one’s hat flying off his head. Both bodies remained still.
Israel stepped up its military raids, arrests and killings in Palestinian cities and villages in the occupied West Bank from June 2021, following a popular Palestinian uprising known as the “May outburst” that swept Israel and the Palestinian territories it has illegally occupied since 1967.
Civilians confronting the Israeli army during raids and uninvolved bystanders have been killed, as well as Palestinian fighters in targeted assassinations and during armed clashes.
In March 2022, following a series of individual Palestinian attacks inside Israel, the Israeli army launched a military campaign that led to 2022 being marked by the United Nations as the deadliest year for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank since 2006.
Some 171 Palestinians, including more than 30 children, were killed by the Israeli army in the West Bank last year.
‘Coming in hard’
Wednesday’s Israeli incursion and high death toll heightened the chance of a sharp escalation in violence. A raid last month was followed by a deadly attack outside a Jerusalem synagogue.
Reporting from West Jerusalem, Al Jazeera’s Sara Khairat said the violence is part of systematic Israeli raids happening in the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem. Along with the rampant demolition of Palestinian homes, it is part of a policy of the new right-wing, ultranationalist Israeli government.
“They are coming in hard … especially with a recent attack that targeted a synagogue,” she said of the far-right Israeli leadership.
According to the ministry, the 11 Palestinians killed in the latest raid were Adnan Sabe’ Baara, 72; Mohammad Khaled Anbousi, 25; Tamer Minawi, 33; Musab Owais, 26; Hossam Isleem, 24; Mohammad Abdulghani, 23; Waleed Dakheel, 23; Abdulhadi Ashqar, 61; Jasser Abdelwahab Qan’eer, 23, Mohammad Farid Shaaban, 16 and Anan Showkat Annab, 66.
The United States raised concern about the violence in the West Bank and offered condolences to “innocent bystanders” who were killed on Wednesday.
“We recognise the very real security concerns facing Israel. At the same time, we are deeply concerned by the large number of injuries and the loss of civilian lives,” US State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters.
Washington provides at least $3.8bn in military aid to Israel annually.
Price also called on parties involved in the conflict to “desist from actions that inflame tensions, such as incitement to violence, evictions of families from their homes, demolitions, settlement advancements and the legalisation of outposts”.
Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East war, territories the Palestinians seek for an independent state. Palestinian statehood talks have been stalled for almost a decade.