Locals inspect the bullet-riddled vehicle where three Palestinians were killed in an operation by Israeli forces in Jenin. Image Credit: AFP

JENIN, Palestinian Territories:  Three Palestinian gunmen were killed and 12 others were wounded on Friday during an Israeli army raid in Jenin, a stronghold of armed Palestinian factions in the occupied West Bank.

The men were killed when Israeli forces opened fire on a vehicle in which they were, the Palestinian news agency Wafa said.

“Fierce clashes” then ensued in the area, with Israeli troops firing at Palestinians, wounding 12, Wafa reported.

An AFP photographer said a white vehicle riddled with bullet holes was in the area where Israeli forces have stepped up operations in recent months.

The men were identified as Yousuf Salah, 23, Baraa Lahluh, 24, and Laith Abu Srur, 24, all from Jenin.

The Islamist group Hamas said Lahluh was one of its commanders in the West Bank and vowed that the killings “will not go unpunished”.

The funerals of the three men took place early Friday afternoon in Jenin in the presence of large crowds and armed Palestinian miitants.

The Israeli army said in a statement that its troops had been conducting an operation in Jenin to search for weapons at two different locations.

The soldiers had come under fire as they arrived at the first location and they retaliated before identifying a suspicious vehicle on the side of the road on their way to the second location, it said.

“Armed assailants inside a vehicle shot at the soldiers, who responded with live fire to neutralise the assailants,” the army said on its Twitter account.

Following an exchange of fire, soldiers found weapons, including two M-16 assault rifles and cartridges at the scene.

West Bank hotspot

The Israeli army has ramped up raids in and around the occupied West Bank’s Jenin camp, a stronghold of Palestinian armed factions.

Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, a prominent TV reporter with Al Jazeera, was shot dead last month in Jenin while she was covering an Israeli army operation.