Armed Israeli forces disguised as women and medical workers have stormed a hospital in the occupied West Bank, killing three suspected Palestinian militants in a dramatic raid that underscored the spillover of deadly violence to the territory during the war in Gaza.
The Palestinian health ministry said Israeli forces opened fire inside the wards of the Ibn Sina hospital in the city of Jenin. The ministry condemned the raid and called on the international community to pressure Israel’s military to halt such operations in hospitals. A hospital spokesperson said there was no exchange of fire, indicating that it was a targeted killing.
The Israeli military said the militants were using the hospital as a hideout. It alleged that one of those targeted in the raid had transferred weapons and ammunition to others for a planned attack, purportedly inspired by the Hamas assault on southern Israel on 7 October. The military did not provide evidence backing that claim.
Footage said to be taken from security camera video inside the hospital that circulated on social media showed about a dozen undercover forces, most of them armed, dressed as women with Muslim headscarves or hospital staff in scrubs or white coats. One in a surgical mask carried a rifle in one arm and a folded wheelchair in the other. The forces were seen patting down one man who kneeled against a wall, his arms raised.
Since 7 October, violence in the West Bank has surged as Israel has cracked down on suspected militants, killing more than 380 Palestinians, according to the Palestinian health ministry. Most were killed in confrontations with Israeli forces during arrest raids or violent protests.
The Israeli military says it has arrested nearly 3,000 Palestinians in the West Bank over the past four months.
It said on Tuesday that forces killed Mohammed Jalamneh, 27, who it said was planning an imminent attack. The two other men killed, brothers Basel and Mohammed Ghazawi, were hiding inside the hospital and were involved in attacks, the military claimed.
It did not provide details on how the three were killed. Its statement said Jalamneh was armed with a pistol, but made no mention of an exchange of fire.
Hospital spokesperson Tawfiq al-Shobaki said there was no exchange of fire and the three were killed by Israeli forces in a targeted killing. He said the Israelis attacked doctors, nurses, and hospital security during the raid.
“What happened is a precedent,” he said. “There was never an assassination inside a hospital. There were arrests and assaults, but not an assassination.”
He said Basel Ghazawi had been a patient in the hospital since October with hemiplegia, or partial paralysis.
Hamas claimed the three men as members, calling the operation “a cowardly assassination”.
The raid took place in Jenin, long a bastion of armed struggle against Israel, where the internationally backed Palestinian Authority and its security forces have little foothold. The city had been the frequent target of Israeli raids even before the war began. Israeli operations there and in an adjacent built-up refugee camp have left vast destruction.
Israel occupied the West Bank, along with the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, in the 1967 six day war. More than half a million Israelis now live in settlements in the West Bank.
Israel withdrew troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005, but imposed a stifling blockade on the territory, along with Egypt, when Hamas came to power in a violent takeover in 2007.
The Palestinians claim those territories as part of their future independent state, hopes for which have increasingly dimmed since the war began. (Guardian)