NABLUS, West Bank (Reuters) - An Israeli raid into a West Bank city dominated by Fatah gunmen drew accusations from Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad that Israel was trying to undermine his new government shorn of Hamas Islamists.
The operation in Nablus indicated that Israel would continue to pursue Fatah militants in the occupied West Bank despite Israeli pledges to bolster the faction’s leader, President Mahmoud Abbas, after Hamas seized Gaza two weeks ago.
Five Israeli soldiers were wounded in the raid, which began late on Wednesday, the army said.
Israeli forces in about 50 armored vehicles entered Nablus and imposed a curfew on the centre of the city, then carried out house-to-house searches for wanted militants, local residents said.
Medical workers said seven Palestinians were hit by Israeli rubber-coated bullets. The Nablus municipality said the force detained eight Palestinians, at least one of them a Fatah gunman. The army said it arrested two wanted Fatah operatives.
“I strongly condemn the new Israeli raid in Nablus ... one day after the aggression in Gaza,” said Fayyad, head of the emergency government that Abbas appointed last week.
In operations in Hamas-controlled Gaza on Wednesday, Israeli forces killed 12 Palestinians, mostly gunmen, but also a 12-year-old boy and several civilians, local medical officials said.
“We can see these acts only as attempts to undermine and destroy our efforts to end security chaos and provide security and safety to the citizens in all of Palestine,” Fayyad told reporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Israel has long called on Abbas to do more to rein in militants, including Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and has been considering providing his forces in the West Bank with additional weapons.
Abbas issued a decree on Tuesday banning Palestinians in the West Bank from carrying illegal weapons or explosives. It was unclear how he would implement the decision.
The Palestine Liberation Organisation’s parliament called last week to disband all armed groups, including Hamas’s Executive Force and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the most high-profile militant organization in Nablus.
Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah and Avida Landau in Jerusalem