Israeli troops kill 7 Palestinian gunmen, 2 civilians in Jenin clash, Palestinians say
JENIN, West Bank, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Israeli commandos killed seven gunmen and two civilians in a raid on a flashpoint town in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, Palestinian officials said, stirring fear of further flare-ups after the largest single death toll in years of fighting.
The Palestinian Authority said it was ending its security coordination with Israel, which is widely credited with helping to keep order in the West Bank and preventing attacks against Israel. It has frozen the cooperation numerous times in a sign of protest.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was not looking to escalate the situation, though he ordered security forces "to prepare for all scenarios in the various sectors".
U.N. and Arab mediators spoke with Israel and Palestinian factions to try to keep the clash in Jenin, among areas of the West Bank that have seen intensified Israeli operations, from sparking a broader confrontation.
Israel's military said it sent special forces into Jenin to detain members of the Islamic Jihad armed group suspected of having carried out and planning "multiple major terror attacks", shooting several of them after they opened fire.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Egypt, Israel and the West Bank next week to discuss the situation.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that more than 20 people were injured in the Israeli counterterrorism operation and there was an "urgent need for all parties to de-escalate, prevent further loss of civilian life, and work together to improve the security situation in the West Bank."
Islamic Jihad said two of its men died battling the unusually deep raid on Jenin's refugee camp, a militant bastion. Four slain gunmen were claimed by Hamas, another by an armed wing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction.
The two other dead were a civilian man and woman, local residents said.
"We consider that security coordination with the Israeli occupation government no longer exists as of now," the Palestinian leadership who gathered to discuss Jenin said in a statement.
Barbara Leaf, the U.S. assistant secretary of State for Near Eastern affairs, said they were pushing to calm tensions and that the security coordination should be deepened, not cut.
GUNFIRE, BLASTS, ROCKS
The United Arab Emirates, China and France have asked the U.N. Security Council to meet behind closed doors on Friday over the violence, diplomats said.
During the three-hour clash, gunfire echoed through the camp's cramped alleys, as well as occasional explosions from improvised bombs set off by militants. Youths pelted army vehicles with rocks. There were no Israeli casualties.
After the troops withdrew and the smoke and tear gas cleared, civilians who had kept away streamed into the camp to check on casualties. A two-storey building that had been the focus of the fighting was heavily damaged.
Separately, a Palestinian was killed during a clash with Israeli security officers in the city of Ramallah, Palestinian health officials said. A spokesperson for Israel's border police was not reachable for comment on the report.
Violence has surged since a series of lethal Palestinian street attacks in Israel in March and April. The attendant diplomatic stalemate has helped rally Palestinian support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which refuse coexistence with Israel - where Netanyahu's new hard-right government includes members opposed to Palestinian statehood.
An Islamic Jihad official told Reuters the group had told international mediators to warn Israel that the Jenin violence "could spread everywhere". Deputy Hamas chief Saleh Al-Arouri said in a statement that an armed response "will not take long".
Tor Wennesland, a U.N. mediator, said on Twitter that he was "actively engaged with Israeli and Palestinian authorities to de-escalate tensions, restore calm and avoid further conflict".
Israeli officials gave no public indication they were in truce talks. Lauding Israeli forces on the Jenin raid, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said: "Any terrorist who tries to harm our personnel should know that his blood is forfeit."
According to the Palestinian health ministry, at least 30 Palestinians, including gunmen and civilians, have been killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank since Jan. 1.
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