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HEBRON, West Bank (Reuters) - Israeli security officials said their forces killed three Palestinian militants on Tuesday who were part of an al Qaeda-linked network in the West Bank.
The Palestinian Authority, which administers the territory, denied the three had had any relation to al Qaeda and accused Israeli of setting out to kill the men.
An official from Israeli's Shin Bet security agency said it had learned from a number of earlier arrests that the network was planning attacks in the coming days against Israeli targets and against the Western-backed Palestinian Authority.
Two of the men were killed when they opened fire on officers trying to arrest them in the area of the city of Hebron, the official said. A number of explosive devices and two guns were found in their vehicle, the official added.
The Israeli military said a third militant was killed in a gunfight after the initial clash.
Al Qaeda-inspired groups have a small presence in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, but are less common in the occupied West Bank, which is policed by Israeli and Palestinian Authority forces.
The Shin Bet official said the militant network had set up a safe house in the territory and was stockpiling weapons.
Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch, Dan Williams, Ali Sawafta and Nidal al-Mughrabi; Editing by Andrew Heavens