JERUSALEM – Palestinian gunmen opened fire on Israeli troops near a military checkpoint in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, killing an Israeli army officer, the Israeli military said. Palestinian officials say the army killed two gunmen.
The overnight incident was the latest in a string of deadly clashes in recent months in the northern West Bank, where the Israeli military conducts nightly raids. Most of those fighting, including Wednesday, took place near the city of Jenin, known as a bastion of Palestinian militants.
The military said soldiers had spotted two militants approaching the Israeli barrier in the northern West Bank and they had deployed forces to the area. It said two suspects had begun firing automatic weapons at the troops, who returned fire.
The Israeli military said Major Bar Falah, 30, was killed in the shooting.
The official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that the Israeli military was holding the bodies of the two men. It identified them as Ahmad Abed, 23, and Abd al-Rahman Abed, 22, both from a village near Jenin.
The Israeli military confirmed that Ahmad Abed is a member of the Palestinian Authority’s security services, working with Israel in an unlikely alliance against their common enemy, the militant group Hamas.
Late Wednesday, Israeli authorities said they were temporarily closing a number of crossings into Israel, including the checkpoint where the shooting took place. It said it was also suspending entry and issuing Israeli work permits to all residents in the attackers’ homeland.
Hamas hailed the attack, hailing the two gunmen as “heroic martyrs.”
In a telephone news conference with reporters, Barbara Leaf, assistant secretary of state for Near East Affairs, said security conditions on the West Coast “make us very concerned.”
She said the US is working to maintain and strengthen security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. During her recent visit to the region, she also discussed ways to improve the Palestinian economy, she said, adding that this would also improve the security situation.
Israel has been conducting nightly raids in West Bank cities, towns and villages since a series of attacks on Israelis in the spring left 19 people dead.
The Israeli fire killed numerous Palestinians during that time, making it the deadliest in the occupied territory since 2016.
The Israeli military said the majority of those killed were militiamen or stone throwers who endangered soldiers. But a number of civilians were also killed during Israel’s months-long campaign, including a veteran journalist and a lawyer who appeared to have accidentally driven into a war zone. Local youths who took to the streets in response to the encroachment of their neighborhoods were also killed.
Israel says the capture raids are aimed at disrupting militant networks. The Palestinians say the operations are aimed at perpetuating Israel’s 55-year military occupation of territories they want an independent state.
Israel captured the West Bank, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, in the 1967 Mideast war, and the Palestinians seek those territories for a future state.