Jerusalem24 – Five Palestinian fighters, including two siblings, were shot and killed during a heavy exchange of fire with the Israeli military during their invasion of Aqbat Jaber refugee camp in Jericho this morning.
The army is withholding the bodies of the five fighters who are said to be affiliated with Hamas, Palestinian media reported.
Around 10:00 AM, Jericho governor Jihad Abu Al-Assal announced the killing of five Palestinians by Israeli gunfire during their military invasion of the camp.
At 12:43 PM, the General Authority of Civil Affairs informed the Palestinian Ministry of Health of their identity, namely 21-year-old Raafat Wael Awaidat, 27-year-old Ibrahim Awaidat, 22-year-old Malik Awni Lafi, 22-year-old Adham Majdi Maqiti-Awaidat, and 28-year-old Thaer Awaidat.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said it treated six injuries in the camp, including three by live ammunition of which one remains in critical condition. Three camp residents further had to be treated for tear gas inhalation. The Red Crescent also stated that Israeli soldiers prevented their ambulance crews from accessing the camp to evacuate the injured during the military invasion.
“They’ve seen so much, that they chose this path”
According to the Palestinian Prisoners Club the Israeli forces arrested 11 Palestinians from the refugee camp during the raid, including a leader from Hamas, Shaker Amara.
Photographs and mobile footage shared on social media show a barracks where the five were allegedly stationed just on the outskirts of the refugee camp, when the exchange of fire took place.
“These young men are all educated,” Wael Awaidat, the father of Ibrahim and Rafaat, told media present at the Aqbat Jaber refugee camp. “They’ve seen so much, that they chose this path. I have no details on what happened, but they attacked them and killed them.”
The Israeli military said in a statement that: “IDF and ISA forces conducted counterterrorism activity overnight in order to apprehend the group that carried out the shooting attack at a restaurant in the community of Vered Yeriho.”
On 28 January, two fighters tried to carry out a shooting attack on a settler restaurant, but due to a firearm malfunction, they had to flee the scene toward the city of Jericho. No injuries were reported at the time.
“The target of the activity was to apprehend the Hamas terrorist squad that carried out the shooting attack at the restaurant,” the statement said.
The Aqbat Jaber Refugee Camp Brigades said in a statement: “Our fighters and our people’s resistance fighters confronted the occupation forces and its special forces on more than one front from the first moment, and a fierce battle took place in which our fighters used explosive devices, bombs, and live ammunition, which led to injuries among the occupation forces.”
The Israeli army published a photograph of what it claims are the weapons used by the fighters.
Local sources reported that fighters were able to shoot down an Israeli drone.
The Israeli army said that a drone of the “sky rider” type fell to the ground in the camp. However, it stated “there is no fear of leaking information. The incident will be investigated.”
The Israeli military has been imposing a siege on Jericho for 10 consecutive days following the shooting attack on the settler restaurant, with Palestinian residents unable to enter or leave the city without passing stringent checks and waiting in lines up to four hours long.
Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the Hamas political office said that “the succession of killings committed by the enemy in the West Bank will be a disaster for it [Israel], and all international or regional interventions will not succeed in stopping the revolutionary tide of our people.”
The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates also issued a statement saying the State of Palestine “would not relent” in its pursuit of accountability for Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people: “The State of Palestine deplores Israel’s recurrent targeted killings and the unlawful use of collective punishment in violation of most elementary principles of humanity, morality, dignity, and rule of law.”
A general strike was announced in cities in the occupied West Bank in mourning for the five killed in Jericho, with all educational and commercial institutes closed.