Israeli troops kill two Palestinian gunmen in West Bank

By Ali Sawafta

JENIN, West Bank (Reuters) -Israeli troops killed two Palestinian gunmen in the occupied West Bank on Saturday in what witnesses described as a running skirmish touched off by an army raid near a flashpoint town.

Jenin and outlying areas have seen intensified military sweeps following a spate of street attacks in Israeli cities last year. The violence has further clouded prospects of a resumption of U.S.-sponsored peace talks that stalled in 2014.

Witnesses said Israeli troops clashed with gunmen before dawn, wounding one. Two other gunmen drove away with him, and after unloading him with local residents, continued in the car, pursued by the troops until they were shot, said the witnesses.

An army spokesperson said troops opened fire on the car after being shot at, and that there were no Israeli casualties. There were bloodstains inside the vehicle, which crashed into a wall during the incident.

The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad claimed the two dead men as its members. One of them was also claimed by Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, an armed offshoot of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction.

Hundreds of people marched in the funeral of the two men in Jaba' town southwest of Jenin, including several gunmen who fired rifles into the air and threatened revenge.

A third Islamic Jihad gunman, who had been wounded in an exchange of fire with the Israeli army earlier in January, was also announced dead on Saturday.

"We are in deep sorrow but we will hit back twice as hard," said a masked Islamic Jihad gunman during the funerals in Jaba'.

In the first two weeks of 2023, 11 Palestinians have been killed in the raids, including three teenagers, according to Palestinian officials. No Israeli soldiers have been killed in the operations.

A Palestinian who stabbed a Jewish settler in the West Bank was shot dead last week.

(Writing by Ali Sawafta, Nidal Al-Mughrabi, Dan Williams and Roleen Tafakji; Editing by Mark Heinrich and David Holmes)