3 Palestinian militants killed in clashes with Israeli forces in Jenin
Israeli security forces this morning attempted to arrest a wanted Hamas operative in the West Bank. The Hamas member, Hamza Abu al Hija, opened fire on Israeli troops when they arrived near his home in Jenin.
In response, "Israeli forces returned fire and killed the terrorist," the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.
Further clashes between Israeli forces and locals ensued, which resulted in the death of two additional Palestinian militants. Those killed were identified as Mohammed Omar Abu Zena of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and Yazan Mahmoud Jabarin of Fatah's al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
According to the IDF, Hamza Abu al Hija "was wanted for involvement in shooting and bombing attacks as well as planning future terror attacks." Israeli officials further described the wanted terrorist as a "ticking bomb," who was planning attacks and receiving orders from Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli forces had previously tried to arrest Abu al Hija in December, AFP reported.
Palestinian Authority security forces were not involved in today's operation, and spokesmen for the PA government in the West Bank denounced the killings. PA security forces have in the past arrested members of the al Hija family and attempted to arrest Hamza, however.
Hamza's father, Jamal Abu al Hija, is currently serving nine life sentences for his involvement in a variety of terror-related activities. Jamal, who was one of Hamas' top operatives in the Jenin area, was arrested by Israel in 2002.
In a joint statement, Hamas' Izz al Din al Qassam Brigades, PIJ's al Quds Brigades, and Fatah's al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades threatened to retaliate for today's killings. Three other groups, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and the Popular Resistance Committees, all released similar statements.