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Jaafar Ashtiyeh with Frank Zeller in Jerusalem

Israel goes 'on offence' after attacks, launches W.Bank raids

Palestinians carry a wounded man following a raid by Israeli troops in the Nur Shams refugee camp near in the northern West Bank town of Tulkarem on April 10 . ©AFP

Jenin (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) - Israeli forces carried out fresh raids Sunday in the flashpoint West Bank region of Jenin, a bastion of Palestinian militant groups and the home of gunmen who launched two recent deadly attacks.

Heavy gun battles rocked the northern region of the occupied territory as Israeli forces launched raids for a second day running, with 10 people wounded in clashes across the West Bank, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

"The State of Israel has gone on the offence," Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said after a cabinet meeting, vowing to "settle accounts with everyone who was linked, either directly or indirectly, to the attacks".

Israeli troops on Sunday detained 20 Palestinians, a military source said.

The operation came after a gunman from Jenin went on a shooting rampage in a Tel Aviv nightlife area Thursday, killing three Israelis and wounding more than a dozen others -- the latest of a spate of bloody attacks in Israel.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad welcomed the Tel Aviv attack, which was condemned by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

Palestinian killed near Bethlehem

Elsewhere in the West Bank, near the southern city of Bethlehem, Israeli troops on Sunday shot dead a Palestinian woman who had approached them and failed to stop after they had fired warning shots, the military said. 

The woman, named by the Palestinian news agency Wafa as Ghada Ibrahim Sabatien, a widowed mother of six in her 40s, died after suffering massive blood loss from a torn artery, the Palestinian health ministry said.

But the centre of the heightened tensions was the Jenin area, where, the Israeli military source told AFP, Palestinian militants shot from passing vehicles at Israeli soldiers -- who responded with live fire.

A total of 20 "wanted individuals" suspected of involvement in "terrorist activities" were apprehended, the source said, while the Palestinian Prisoners Club announced 24 arrests across the West Bank, which Israel has occupied since the 1967 Six Day War.

The Israeli military source said its forces had located stolen Israeli army ammunition and uniforms in the residence of one of the suspects, and an explosive device in another home. 

No Israeli forces were reported injured, while the Palestinian health ministry said at least 10 Palestinians were wounded in clashes in Jenin, as well as in Jericho and Tulkarem.

Protests in support of Jenin were scheduled for later in the day in Ramallah.

'No limits'

Tensions have been heightened during Ramadan, after violence flared during the Muslim holy month last year leading to 11 days of devastating conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

In recent weeks, Israel has been stunned by a string of attacks, several of them shooting sprees targeting civilians and some carried out by assailants linked to or inspired by the Islamic State group.

A total of 14 people have been killed in four attacks in Israel since March 22, including another shooting spree on March 29 in Bnei Brak, an Orthodox Jewish city near Tel Aviv, also carried out by a Palestinian attacker from Jenin.

Over the same period, at least 11 Palestinians have been killed, including assailants, according to a count by AFP.

Following Thursday's attack, Bennett gave security agencies "full freedom" to end the deadly violence, warning that "there are not and will not be limits for this war".

"We will do whatever it takes, whatever is necessary, for however long and wherever needed, until both safety and the sense of security are restored," army chief Aviv Kochavi told soldiers in a video released by the military.

On Saturday, the Israeli army and border police had also carried operations in Jenin.

Troops raided the Jenin refugee camp and, amid heavy gun battles, killed a 25-year-old Palestinian member of Islamic Jihad, the main Palestinian armed Islamist movement besides Hamas. 

The Jenin refugee camp is a stronghold of armed factions, where three other Palestinians linked to an anti-Israeli attack were killed by the army last week. 

The new operation comes ahead of the funerals of the three Israeli civilians killed in Tel Aviv -- childhood friends Tomer Morad and Eytam Magini, and father-of-three Barak Lufan -- in the central town of Kfar Saba and the northern kibbutz of Ginosar. 

"This is a difficult day, the day on which the three people who were murdered in the Tel Aviv terrorist attack are brought to rest", Bennett said.

Israeli authorities on Sunday also reported "vandalism" at the tomb of Joseph, the son of the patriarch Jacob, a Jewish pilgrimage site near the West Bank city of Nablus.

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