Israeli security forces stop and search a Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance at the entrance to the Tulkarem refugee camp in the occupied West Bank during a raid on January 17, 2024. Image Credit: AFP

TULKAREM:  Israeli strikes killed nine people in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, emergency services and the army said, as violence in the territory sees no let-up.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said an Israeli strike killed four people inside Tulkarem refugee camp early in the morning. “Palestine Red Crescent teams transport four martyrs from inside Tulkarem camp due to the occupation’s bombardment,” the group said in a statement.

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An official at the camp confirmed the strike and the death toll.

“The camp is besieged by aircraft and heavy numbers of the Israeli army, and tanks,” Faisal Salama told AFP.

The Israeli military confirmed it carried out an air strike during the Tulkarem raid, adding that “a number of terrorists were killed in the strike”.

Later on Wednesday, loud explosions were heard in the camp as thick smoke billowed into the sky amid sporadic gunfire, an AFP correspondent reported.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since the Six-Day War of 1967 and its troops regularly carry out incursions into Palestinian communities.

Woken by an explosion

A separate strike near Balata refugee camp, east of the city of Nablus, killed five fighters with the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the armed wing of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, it said in a statement.

The group and the Israeli army said Ahmed Abdullah Abu Shalal, a Palestinian militant, had been killed, with Israel saying it had averted a “terrorist attack” he was planning.

Abu Shalal had been responsible for a “number of terrorist attacks” over the past year, including one in annexed east Jerusalem, the army said.

It said he was killed following intelligence “of his cell’s intentions of carrying out an imminent terrorist attack”.

Camp resident Sajed Hazeem said he was awoken at dawn by a loud explosion.

Minutes after the blast, an ambulance arrived at the scene but its access to the car was blocked by Israeli troops who arrived at the same time, Hazeem said.

“The army pulled out the bodies and after about half an hour it withdrew,” he told AFP.

The Palestinian health ministry in Ramallah said the body of an “unidentified martyr killed by the occupation (Israel) in a bombing of a vehicle” had been received by a hospital in Nablus.

An AFP correspondent saw a pile of debris and the mangled remains of a car that was hit.

Since the start of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza on October 7, the West Bank has experienced a level of violence not seen since the second Palestinian uprising, or intifada, between 2000 and 2005.

Israeli forces and attacks by settlers have killed at least 360 people in the territory, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

Excluding annexed east Jerusalem, the territory is home to some three million Palestinians.

They live alongside around 490,000 Israelis, who reside in settlements which are illegal under international law.