JERUSALEM: Israeli troops on Thursday demolished the home of a Palestinian who is suspected of killing an Israeli soldier last year, in the latest military operation in the increasingly volatile West Bank, which has been gripped by surging violence.
The demolition came during a week of rising tensions and unrelenting violence in the West Bank and just hours after Israel carried out a rare airstrike that killed three Palestinian militants near the city of Jenin and Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian villages in retaliation for the killing of four Israelis a day earlier.
A daylong Israeli military raid on Monday killed seven Palestinians, including two teens, near Jenin, a militant stronghold in the West Bank. A day later, a mass shooting by Palestinian gunmen killed four Israelis, including a 17-year-old boy.
On Wednesday, hundreds of Israeli settlers stormed into a Palestinian village adjacent to the scene of the shooting and torched homes and cars.
The army said late Wednesday it had “identified a terrorist cell inside a suspicious vehicle” that was allegedly responsible for recent shooting attacks on Jewish settlements. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group on Thursday claimed the three men killed in the drone strike were its members and vowed to carry out more attacks in revenge.
It was the first Israeli airstrike in the West Bank in nearly two decades and marked a significant escalation of Israel’s more than year-long crackdown on Palestinian militants in the occupied territory.
Early Thursday, the Israeli army released a video showing troops carrying out the controlled demolition of the suspected gunman’s apartment. The military reported that troops came under attack during the operation in the city of Nablus, but no injuries were reported.
The house belonged to Kamal Jouri, one of two Palestinians suspected of killing Staff Sergeant Ido Baruch in a drive-by shooting in the northern West Bank in October. He and a second suspect were arrested by the military in February, and the army demolished the second suspect’s home earlier this month. A Palestinian militant group called the Den of Lions claimed the attack.
Israel says that demolishing the homes of Palestinian attackers serves as a deterrent, while critics say the tactic amounts to collective punishment.
This week’s violence was the latest in a long string of violence in the region over the past year and half that shows no sign of relenting. At least 135 Palestinians and 26 people on the Israeli side have been killed so far this year, according to a tally by The Associated Press.
Israel has been staging near-nightly raids in the West Bank in response to a string of deadly Palestinian attacks targeting Israeli civilians early in 2022. Israel says most of the Palestinians killed were militants, but stone-throwing youths protesting the incursions and others not involved in confrontations have also been killed.
Israel captured the West Bank, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians seek those territories for a future independent state.