Israeli police say six members of the security forces were wounded in a shooting attack at a checkpoint near Bethlehem.
Three Palestinians have been killed after allegedly carrying out a shooting attack at an Israeli checkpoint near Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank amid soaring violence across the territory.
At least six members of the Israeli security forces were wounded in the attack, one critically, Israeli police said on Thursday.
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Following the incident, the Israeli army sealed off all entrances to the Bethlehem governorate in the south of the occupied West Bank, preventing people from entering and exiting the area.
Troops have been deployed along roads leading to several nearby villages and towns.
Israeli police chief Yaakov Shabtai said the alleged gunmen had planned a much bigger attack.
At least two of the alleged attackers belonged to the Hamas armed group, according to Israel’s domestic security service Shin Bet.
There was no immediate comment from Hamas.
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Shabtai told reporters the three arrived in a vehicle from the direction of Bethlehem and opened fire when Israeli forces there began questioning them. They were killed when the Israeli forces shot back, he said.
After the gunfight, police said they found two automatic rifles, two handguns, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, 10 fully loaded magazines and two axes on the suspects and in their vehicle.
Footage on social media, shot from inside a bus, showed a man in uniform running and falling as gunshots rang out at the checkpoint in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
“They [Israeli authorities] say there is a fourth Palestinian they believe is involved in the shooting,” said Al Jazeera’s Nida Ibrahim, reporting from Ramallah.
“In the hours that followed, we’ve seen Israeli forces raiding Hebron because they believe the perpetrators are from there,” she said. “They have arrested the families of the three Palestinians”.
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Earlier on Thursday, Israeli forces carried out raids across the West Bank, making several arrests.
Witnesses told the Palestinian news agency Wafa that two young men were arrested in the city of Jericho. Two other men were arrested following a separate raid on the village of al-Lubban ash-Sharqiya, located south of Nablus.
Tensions in the West Bank have soared since Hamas carried out a surprise attack on southern Israel on October 7, killing around 1,200 people, according to the Israeli authorities.
Israel responded with an air and ground assault on Gaza that has so far killed more than 11,600 people, including at least 4,700 children, according to Palestinian health authorities. It has also left much of the besieged enclave in ruins.
At least 197 Palestinians, including 48 children, have been killed in the occupied West Bank since October 7. Eight Palestinians have been killed in attacks by Israeli settlers, according to the UN, and more than 1,100 people have been displaced from their homes.
The UN human rights chief voiced concern about the “intensification of violence and severe discrimination against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem”.
“This creates a potentially explosive situation,” Volker Turk said in a briefing to UN member states in Geneva.
“I am ringing the loudest possible alarm bell about the occupied West Bank.”