Settler violence in West Bank as grim toll reached in Gaza

Israeli military vehicles during a raid in Tulkarm in the occupied West Bank. Photo: Reuters
Israeli military vehicles during a raid in Tulkarm in the occupied West Bank. Photo: Reuters
A Palestinian ambulance driver was killed on his way to evacuate the wounded during a raid by violent Jewish settlers and at least 12 Palestinians died during a separate incident in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian authorities said on Saturday.

The incidents came as violence flared across the area and fighting continued in Gaza.

The Palestinian health ministry said the 50-year-old driver was killed by Israeli gunfire near the village of Al-Sawiya, south of the city of Nablus, as he was making his way to transport people injured during the attack on the village.

It was not immediately clear whether he was shot by settlers. There was no immediate comment from the military.

In a separate incident in the Nur Shams area, near the Palestinian city of Tulkarm, health authorities said at least 12 Palestinians, two of whom were identified by Palestinian sources and officials as a gunman and a 16 year-old boy, were killed during an extended raid by Israeli forces.

A number of militants were killed or arrested, the Israeli military said, and at least four soldiers were wounded in exchanges of fire.

Tulkarm Brigades group, which includes militants from numerous Palestinian factions, said its fighters exchanged fire with Israeli forces on Saturday.

At least three drones were seen hovering above Nur Shams, where Israeli military vehicles were massed and bursts of gunfire were heard.

In Gaza, Israeli strikes hit the southern city of Rafah, where over one million Palestinians are sheltering, as well as Al-Nuseirat in central Gaza, where at least five houses were destroyed, and the Al-Jabalia area in the north, health officials and Hamas media said.

The Israeli military said troops were carrying out raids in central Gaza, where they were engaged in close quarter combat with Palestinian fighters.

Overall, Israeli strikes in Gaza killed 37 Palestinians and wounded 68 over the past 24 hours, Palestinian health authorities said.

Fighting has continued in Gaza despite the withdrawal of most of Israel's combat forces earlier this month from southern areas, and where the death toll passed 34,000, according to Palestinian health authorities.

Rafah is the last Gaza area that Israeli ground forces have not entered in a more than six-month war aimed at eliminating the Islamist Hamas group that rules the enclave, following the Hamas attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7, that killed some 1,200 Israelis and foreigners.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has faced wide international opposition to the plan to attack Rafah, where the military says the last remaining organised brigades of Hamas are located and where the remaining 133 Israeli hostages are believed to be held.

The Gaza war has overshadowed continuing violence in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, including regular army raids on militant groups, rampages by Jewish settlers in Palestinian villages, and street attacks by Palestinians on Israelis.

The Palestinian Health Ministry confirmed the deaths of 13 people since Thursday night in Nur Shams, an area that houses refugees from the 1948 war and their descendants. One fatality was identified by Palestinian sources as a gunman. The second was a 16-year-old schoolboy, according to Palestinian officials.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the United States for effectively stopping the United Nations from recognising a Palestinian state by casting a veto this week in the Security Council.

In an interview with the official Palestinian news agency WAFA, Abbas said the Palestinian Authority would reconsider bilateral relations with the United States.

The West Bank and Gaza are among the territories that the Palestinians seek for an independent state. U.S.-brokered peace talks broke down a decade ago.