Israeli troops kill 5 Palestinians in West Bank gunbattles

Israel Palestinians

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli troops conducted a series of arrest raids against suspected Hamas militants across the occupied West Bank early Sunday, sparking a pair of gun battles in which five Palestinians were killed and two Israeli soldiers were seriously wounded.

It was the deadliest violence between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in the West Bank in several weeks. The region has seen an increase in fighting in recent months, with tensions fueled by Israeli settlement construction, heightened militant activity in the northern West Bank and the aftermath of a bloody war between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip last May.

The Israeli military said it had been tracking the Hamas militants for several weeks and that the raids were launched in response to immediate threats.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the militants were about to carry out attacks “in real time.” He praised the Israeli forces, saying they acted “as expected. They engaged the enemy and we back them completely.”

In a statement, t