Jerusalem, Jun 21 (EFE).- Three Palestinian militiamen were killed Wednesday in an Israeli drone strike on a car traveling near Jenin, the Palestinian Authority’s official news agency said.
“The three were identified as Mohammed Bashar Uweis, 28, Suhayb Adnan al-Ghoul, 27, and Ashraf Murad Saadi, 17. All from Jenin,” the Wafa agency said.
First responders saw three charred bodies inside the vehicle, but Israeli troops barred them from removing the remains and also prevented ambulances from approaching the scene, Wafa reported.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that it “identified a terrorist cell inside a suspicious vehicle after the cell carried out a shooting adjacent to the town of Jalamah.”
Jalamah, at the northern end of the occupied West Bank, is not far from Jenin, where seven Palestinians died Monday during an Israeli raid.
The IDF said the occupants of the vehicle had carried out shooting attacks on Jewish settlements.
“Following the identification of the terrorist cell, an UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) fired toward the cell and thwarted them,” the statement said, adding that the strike was the first such targeted killing on the West Bank since 2006.
The cell belonged to the Jenin Battalion, an umbrella alliance of Palestinian militants based in the Jenin refugee camp, according to the IDF, which said that troops found assault rifles in the vehicle.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad said that the three men killed were members of its armed wing.
“I praise the security forces who a short time ago carried out a targeted elimination of a terrorist squad that fired toward Israeli territory, and had previously carried out several shooting attacks,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on Twitter.
Earlier Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the construction of 1,000 new homes in Eli in the northern West Bank, in retaliation for a Palestinian attack a day earlier that killed four residents of that settlement.
“Our answer to terrorism is to strike at it forcefully and build up our country,” the government said in announcing the policy.
Tensions have been heightened in the region for over a year, with at least 15 people killed in the past two days.
Two Palestinians with ties to the armed wing of Hamas, the Islamist movement that governs the Gaza Strip, opened fire on a gas station near Eli on Tuesday, killing at least four settlers – two of them minors – and wounding four others.
The assailants were killed in the aftermath.
Tuesday night, hundreds of settlers attacked the Palestinian town of Huwara and other nearby villages in retaliation, injuring 34 Palestinians and leaving at least 140 vehicles burnt.
On Wednesday, a mob of settlers attacked the village of Turmusaya, leaving at least one Palestinian dead and 12 others wounded, the Palestinian health ministry said.
The West Bank in recent months has seen the worst escalation of violence since the Second Intifada (2000-05), with 137 Palestinians killed so far this year, mostly in armed clashes with Israeli security forces.
On the Israeli side, 25 people have died, most of them settlers killed in attacks by Palestinian militants.
The violence has led to growing calls within Israel’s hardline government – the most right-wing in the country’s history – to toughen the response to Palestinian militant activity.