RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Israeli forces killed three Palestinians during a raid on a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, officials said, as U.S. top diplomat Antony Blinken stressed the need to de-escalate tensions during a visit to the region.
Israel's military said it killed a wanted suspect in an exchange of fire after encircling the house he was in. It said two more armed fighters who tried to escape the house were also killed in the operation, which lasted four hours and involved a "variety of means". No soldiers were injured, it added.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said two men in their 30s were shot dead by Israeli forces in the Nur Shams refugee camp near the northern West Bank city of Tulkarm. It had no immediate comment on a third fatality.
Camp residents told Reuters that the two men who were shot were not inside the besieged house and that their bodies were found outside. He said Israel fired missiles at the house and bulldozed part of it before its forces withdrew.
Hours after the operation, none of the three men were claimed by any militant factions.
Some 13,519 Palestinian refugees are registered in Nur Shams camp with the U.N. agency for Palestinians, many of whom hope to return to homes from which they or their ancestors fled or were expelled in the 1948 war that followed Israel's creation.
Violence in the West Bank has been surging for over a year due to near-daily Israeli military raids and settler attacks. The United Nations said 507 Palestinians were killed there in 2023, the highest number since it began keeping records in 2005.
As Israel continues its unrelenting bombing and ground invasion of Gaza following an Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on its southern communities, soldiers operating in the West Bank have since killed more than 360 Palestinians, U.N. data showed.
Last week, Israeli forces disguised as medics and women burst into a hospital in the northern West Bank city of Jenin and killed three Palestinian fighters, one of them lying paralysed in bed.
A readout of Blinken's meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday said the secretary of state "stressed the urgent need to de-escalate tensions in the West Bank and prevent the conflict from expanding".
Israel says its military operations are necessary to thwart attacks targeting its citizens. Palestinian leaders say Israel's assaults in Gaza and the West Bank are part of the same policy aimed at denying Palestinians nationhood and self-determination.
(Reporting by Ali Sawafta and Henriette Chacar; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)