Israeli forces kill 2 Palestinians in West Bank

NABLUS, West Bank (Reuters) – Israeli forces killed two Palestinians, including an Islamic Jihad commander, in the West Bank city of Nablus on Tuesday in the first fatal raid since a ceasefire took hold in the Gaza Strip last week.

Islamic Jihad threatened to launch attacks inside Israel to avenge the death of Tarek Juma Abu Ghali, whom the militant group described as one of its most senior commanders in the northern West Bank.

A second Palestinian, affiliated with the Islamist militant group Hamas, was also killed in the overnight raid, Palestinian security sources said.

The killings, which were confirmed by the Israeli army, could test the ceasefire that took effect last Thursday between Israel and militants in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

“Calm in Gaza does not mean that we will sit in our seats waiting to be slaughtered one by one,” Islamic Jihad said in a statement. “This crime will not pass without punishment and the coming days will be a witness to that.”

Officials on both sides doubt the truce will last. The army on Tuesday confirmed that Palestinians fired a mortar shell into Israel from Gaza overnight in the first reported violation by militants of the ceasefire.

No one was hurt by the mortar shell and there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said his group was not aware of the incident and remained committed to the truce.

Although the ceasefire deal applies only to the Gaza Strip, Islamic Jihad leaders in the coastal territory have threatened to retaliate if Israel killed any of its members in the occupied West Bank.

An Israeli army spokesman said the Islamic Jihad commander killed in Nablus had directed “terrorist squads” and was involved in making explosive devices.

“The crime in Nablus confirms that the Israeli occupation is interested in pursuing its aggression despite the atmosphere of calm,” Abu Zuhri said.

Nablus Governor Jamal Muheisen called the Israeli raid in the city an “unjustified crime” but said he did not believe it would threaten the Gaza truce.

Under the ceasefire deal, brokered by Egypt, Hamas agreed to prevent other militant groups in the Gaza Strip, including Islamic Jihad, from launching cross-border attacks.

Israel also agreed to halt fighting in the Gaza Strip and to gradually relax its economic blockade on the enclave.

Security forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas deployed in Nablus late last year as part of a Western-backed law-and-order campaign. But Palestinian officials say frequent Israeli raids into the city have undermined that effort.

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