NABLUS, West Bank (Reuters) – Israeli soldiers shot and killed six Palestinians in two separate incidents on Saturday in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, in one of the deadliest outbreaks of violence in months.
Three of those who were killed belonged to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement, and his top aide accused Israel of inflaming tensions and seeking to torpedo U.S.-backed efforts to renew stalled peace talks.
The violence came a day before the anniversary of a three-week Gaza war that killed some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis. Peace talks have been frozen since.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said soldiers shot and killed three Palestinians suspected of trying to infiltrate from Hamas-ruled coastal Gaza, and three West Bank militants accused of killing a Jewish settler in a roadside shooting on Thursday.
A Hamas security source said the three shot in Gaza at daybreak were apparently civilians collecting scrap metal in an industrial zone near the Israeli border.
In the West Bank, Palestinian medics and witnesses said soldiers surrounded the homes of three members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant group of Abbas’s Fatah group, and then killed all three.
The shootings infuriated Palestinian leaders.
“This grave Israeli escalation shows Israel is not interested in peace and is trying to explode the situation,” Nabil Abu Rdainah, a top aide to Abbas, told Reuters.
“Israel is torpedoing international and American efforts to restart peace talks,” Rdainah said.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said troops had launched a “pinpointed raid to capture the perpetrators of the shooting attack and during the operation three who were involved in carrying out that attack were killed.”
At least one of the militants was armed during the raid and four rifles and ammunition were found at the scene, the spokeswoman said.
The settler had been the first Israeli killed in a Palestinian attack in about eight months in the West Bank, territory Israel captured in a 1967 war and which Palestinians seek for a state.
Sources in Fatah said those who were killed in the West Bank raid belonged to their group. At least one had been on an Israeli wanted list, the sources said.
Abbas has demanded a halt to Jewish settlement building before peace talks delayed since a Gaza war in January may resume, and has rejected a temporary building freeze announced last month by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as insufficient.