Ramallah/ Gaza: Israeli forces killed two Palestinian gunmen during a clash in the occupied West Bank on Monday, militant factions and medics said, and shot down a drone over the Gaza Strip that the ruling Islamist group Hamas claimed as part of its arsenal.
Tensions have been running high as Muslims mark the Ramadan holy fast month during a surge in Israeli-Palestinian violence.
The latest shootings happened during a raid by the Israeli military in the northern West Bank city of Nablus.
The Lion’s Den, a coalition of Palestinian gunmen in Nablus, said one of its members was killed while battling the incursion.
A second slain gunman was claimed by the Fatah faction.
The military said its soldiers shot several gunmen after coming under fire in Nablus. There were no Israeli casualties.
During the raid, the Israeli military detained two people suspected of assisting a Palestinian who carried out a March 25 drive-by shooting that wounded two troops, the military said.
The car used was also seized, it said.
In Ramallah, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the spokesman of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, accused Israel of trying to “drag the region into a cycle of violence and instability”.
Over Gaza, the southern coastal enclave, an Israeli warplane shot down a unidentified flying object, the military said. The object had not crossed into nor threatened Israel, it added.
Gaza residents heard explosions overhead.
Hamas said one of its “Shehab” drones, while on a training flight, had been shot down by Israel’s air force. Hamas said it responded by firing anti-aircraft missiles at Israeli planes.
The military confirmed that, saying no planes were hit.
In a 2021 statement, Hamas described the Shehab, which is around the size of a model aircraft, as an explosives-bearing suicide drone.
Around 90 Palestinians, including gunmen and civilians, have been killed by Israeli forces in 2023, the Palestinian health ministry said. Fifteen Israelis and a Ukrainian have died in Palestinian attacks, Israel’s foreign ministry said.
The army announced its conclusions on Monday, a day after air force helicopters and fighter jets were scrambled to intercept the drone when it entered Israeli territory from Syria. There were no casualties in the incident, but it added to the already heightened tensions between the two arch-enemies.
The interception happened shortly after Iranian state media reported that an Iranian adviser who was wounded in an Israeli airstrike in Syria over the weekend had died of his wounds. That made him the second Iranian adviser allegedly killed by Israel in recent days.
Last week, Greece announced the arrest of two Pakistani operatives it said were planning an attack on a Jewish centre in Athens. Israel has said Iran was behind the plot.
The Israeli military said Monday an initial inquiry determined the intercepted drone was Iranian. It said debris was still being collected and analysed.
Since the start of Syria’s conflict in March 2011, Iran has been a main supporter of President Bashar Assad’s government and has sent advisers and other assistance to the Syrian leader.
Throughout the Syrian war, Israel has carried out scores of airstrikes in the neighbouring country.
Most of these strikes have been aimed at Iranian targets or suspected arms shipments to Hezbollah and other Iran-backed groups that have sent troops to back Assad.