NABLUS: Six Palestinians were killed in sweeping Israeli raids on Tuesday in the occupied West Bank as the army targeted an emerging armed group, and thousands later massed for the funerals of the alleged gunmen.
The Palestinian health ministry said five people were killed in Nablus in the northern West Bank, where Israel confirmed an overnight operation targeted the "Lion's Den", a new group it blames for multiple recent attacks.
Another Palestinian died from a gunshot wound to the chest during overnight clashes with Israeli forces in Nabi Saleh, north of Ramallah, the health ministry said.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement that Wadi al Houh, whom he described as "the head of the Lion's Den", was among those killed in Nablus. The army said it had carried out a major operation with police and intelligence officers targeting a site "used by the main operatives of the 'Lion's Den'", describing it as a "headquarters and a workshop for making weapons".
"The forces detonated the explosive manufacturing site," added the army statement which did not provide a death toll.
"During the activity, multiple armed suspects were hit."
An Israeli military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that "after trying to let the Palestinian Authority contain the group and them failing to do so, and with the rise in attacks... we embarked on an intelligence-based operation to halt the Lions' Den terror attacks".
"The region has been thoroughly reinforced, we're prepared for an escalation," the official added.
At the death reported at Nabi Saleh, the army confirmed it had "spotted a suspect throwing an explosive device" at soldiers, who opened fire.
In a statement posted to Telegram, the nascent group was defiant. "Surrender is the path of humiliation," it said. "It's time for the lions to come out of their den." A sea of mourners carried bodies through the streets of Nablus ahead of the burials as gunman fired into the air.
Violence has surged in recent months in the north of the West Bank, the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 by Israel, especially in the areas of Nablus and Jenin.
More than 100 Palestinian fighters and civilians have been killed since the start of the year, the heaviest toll in the West Bank for nearly seven years, according to the United Nations. -- AFP