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Israel says Palestinian gunmen killed after West Bank attack lauded by Hamas, as Gaza deaths near 30,000

Gunmen open fire in West Bank
Palestinian gunmen open fire near a busy checkpoint in the West Bank 01:23

Jerusalem — Three Palestinian gunmen opened fire early Thursday morning near a busy checkpoint in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, killing one Israeli and wounding at least eight others, according to Israeli police. The police said two attackers were killed at the scene and the third was later found and arrested.

Tension between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank has soared since Hamas' brutal Oct. 7 terror attack on Israel sparked the ongoing war in the other Palestinian territory, the Gaza Strip, which has been ruled by Hamas for almost two decades.

Israel's National Security Minister, ultranationalist Itamar Ben-Gvir, visiting the scene declared that Israelis' "right to our lives prevails on their [Palestinians] freedom of movement."

Shooting Near West Bank Settlement Of Ma'aleh Adumim
Members of the Zaka Search and Rescue team clean blood stains off a car after a shooting attack in Ma'aleh Adumim, West Bank, Feb. 22, 2024. Amir Levy/Getty

He suggested that officials "need to distribute more weapons" to Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank – whose very presence is illegal under international law but strongly supported by Ben-Gvir and other members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right government.

Hamas issued a statement lauding "the heroic operation south of occupied Jerusalem," calling the attack near the West Bank checkpoint "a natural response to the occupation's massacres and crimes in the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank."

Support for Hamas in the West Bank has increased significantly since the war in Gaza began, and that devastating war appeared nowhere near easing on Thursday.

Reports from the Gaza Strip suggest Israel has intensified its bombardment of the southern part of the decimated enclave in recent days. The Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health says almost 30,000 people have been killed in the territory since the war began. It does not distinguish between combatant and civilian casualties, but according to United Nations agencies, a majority of the dead have been women and children.

Israel gives Hamas deadline to return hostages 02:18

The health ministry said Thursday that Israeli strikes over the last 24 hours alone had killed 97 people from nine families and left 132 others wounded.

Netanyahu has ordered the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for a ground incursion into the large southern Gaza city of Rafah, right on the territory's southern border with Egypt. Around 1.5 million Palestinians have crammed into the city and its immediate surroundings seeking sheltering from the war raging all around.

Israeli attacks on Gaza continue
A view of devastation after Israeli attacks destroyed the Al-Farooq Mosque completely and heavily damaged nearby buildings in Rafah, Gaza, Feb. 22, 2024. Abed Rahim Khatib/Anadolu/Getty

The town of Khan Younis, only about five miles north of Rafah, has been the scene of intense fighting for weeks, pushing more civilians to flee south toward the Egyptian border, where living conditions are dire and getting worse by the day.

The IDF said Thursday that it was continuing to "engage and kill terrorists and destroy terrorist infrastructure in the area of Khan Younis." 

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