Time News Desk: An Israeli soldier and two Palestinians were killed in clashes early on Wednesday near Jenin in the occupied West Bank. Israel’s army said a major ‘was killed overnight during operational activity adjacent to the Gilboa Crossing during an exchange of fire with Palestinian terrorists’.
The Palestinian health ministry confirmed ‘the martyrdom of the two young men’ in clashes near the checkpoint known to Palestinians as Jalameh, north of Jenin.
The official Palestinian news agency Wafa identified the dead Palestinians as Ahmed Ayman Ibrahim Abed, 23, and Abdul Rahman Hani Subhi Abed, 22, originally from the village of Kufr Dan outside Jenin.
The Jalameh checkpoint is a major throughfare for goods coming into the West Bank from Israel.
Security has been tightened as Israeli football club Maccabi Haifa host French giants Paris Saint-Germain in a Champions League tie later Wednesday at their base just 60 kilometres from Jenin.
The Palestinian armed groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad both lauded the Israeli soldier’s death, but neither confirmed that its fighters were involved in the gun battle.
A Hamas spokesperson praised the ‘heroic operation that was carried out by the resistance fighters’.
Wafa added that 12 other Palestinians were arrested in overnight raids across the West Bank.
Local authorities in Jenin announced a city-wide strike in response to the two deaths.
Israel’s army chief Aviv Kohavi in a statement extended ‘his deepest, deepest condolences,’ to the slain soldier’s family and girlfriend.
‘We will embrace them,’ he said.
Jenin has suffered near relentless violence in recent months, part of a deadly flare up that began in mid-March.
There have been deadly attacks on Israeli targets, mostly by Palestinians. In response, Israel has launched near nightly raids on West Bank towns and cities that have killed dozens of Palestinians, including fighters.
On Sunday, a Palestinian claimed as a member by the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade the armed wing of president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah movement died from wounds sustained during clashes with Israeli troops in Jenin camp.
Last week, armed forces chief Lieutenant General Aviv Kohavi said ‘around 1,500 wanted people were arrested and hundreds of attacks prevented’ in the operations.
Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967 when it captured the territory from Jordan.
About 475,000 Jewish settlers currently live in the West Bank in communities considered illegal by most of the international community, alongside some 2.8 million Palestinians.