Three Palestinians, including a senior armed resistance commander, have been killed by Israeli forces during a raid on the occupied West Bank city of Nablus, the Palestinian health ministry said.
The Israeli army surrounded a building in the Old City at 5am local time (02:00 GMT) on Tuesday, where Ibrahim al-Nabulsi – the commander of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, had barricaded himself in. A gunfight lasted for several hours, reports Al Jazeera citing news agencies.
Al-Nabulsi, 30, was killed along with 32-year-old Islam Sabbouh and Hussein Jamal Taha, the health ministry said, adding that more than 60 others were wounded. Four were in critical condition.
Al Jazeera’s John Holman said al-Nabulsi had “refused to surrender, and was defended by other armed Palestinians” before he was killed.
“This isn’t the first time that Israeli forces have tried to get al-Nabulsi,” Holman said. “They tried several times, including in July, in a massive operation again in which two other men died.”
Al-Nabulsi, known popularly as “the lion of Nablus”, had been on the run for many months, and survived several assassination attempts by Israel. His public appearances at the funerals of his fellow comrades, such as in February and July, had further raised the ire of Israeli forces.
“The terrorist Ibrahim al-Nabulsi was killed in the city of Nablus,” the Israeli army said in a statement, adding that “another terrorist who was staying in the house” also died.
The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade is the armed wing of Fatah – the movement that controls the Palestinian Authority, which has limited self-rule in the West Bank. However, it is a loose network without a clear hierarchy, and local groups often act on their own.
The Palestinian health ministry confirmed the death of al-Nabulsi almost an hour after his killing, resulting in conflicting reports. Videos shared on social media showed al-Nabulsi barefoot and in military fatigues, being carried by Palestinians, to Rafidia Hospital in Nablus, with a gaping bullet wound in his neck but still alive.
Hundreds of Palestinians surrounded the hospital and some made it inside the operating room, hoping he would survive. Others shared al-Nabulsi’s will, which he recorded in an audio message hours earlier.
“Take care of the homeland,” he said. “I am surrounded now but I will fight until I become a martyr. I love my mother. Don’t abandon the gun.”
Cities and towns in the occupied West Bank observed a commercial strike in protest of the killings in Nablus.
Wafa news agency reported that the strike was held in Nablus, Hebron, Tulkarm, Jenin, Qalqilya, Bethlehem, Ramallah, Salfit, and Tubas.
“This is a period of mourning mixed with protests spreading across the West Bank,” Al Jazeera’s Holman said.
The prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, Mohamed Shtayeh, has condemned the killings and called on the United Nations Security Council “to break the double standards in dealing with international laws” and to hold Israel accountable.
“All of these terrorist practices must stir the global conscience to take measures to stop the bloodshed, which once it stops in one area starts in another,” he said in a statement, referring to the Israeli occupation. “Our people have been suffering from this for more than 74 years.”
The main Palestinian political groups also condemned the killings, calling the action “cowardly”.
“We mourn our martyrs Ibrahim al-Nabulsi, Islam Sabbouh and Hussein Taha,” Fatah spokesman Munther al-Hayek said in a statement.
“This cowardly crime of assassination will only increase our people’s determination to continue the confrontations to end the [Israeli] occupation, and establish an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.”
The leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) group said the resistance of the men killed “has emphasised the failure of the occupation”, and Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem hailed the “epic heroism” of the fighters.
Israeli forces have conducted near-daily operations in the West Bank in recent months.
On Friday, Israel launched what it called a “preemptive” aerial and artillery bombardment of Islamic Jihad positions in the Gaza Strip.
An Egypt-brokered ceasefire agreed on Sunday ended three days of intense fighting that killed 46 Palestinians, 16 of them children, and wounded 360, according to Gaza’s health ministry.