Israeli forces kill two Palestinian gunmen in battle; two teens killed in clashes

By Ali Sawafta

NABLUS, West Bank (Reuters) -Israeli security forces killed a Palestinian militant commander and another fighter in a gunbattle in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday, the military said, triggering further clashes in which Palestinians said two teens were killed in separate incidents.

Israeli forces surrounded the house of Ibrahim al-Nabulsi, a senior commander of Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades militant group long on Israel's wanted list.

Al-Nabulsi, barricaded inside, refused to surrender and was killed along with another militant during a gunbattle with Israeli forces, who also used shoulder-fired missiles in the fighting, the military said.

The shootout, in the northern West Bank city of Nablus, was the deadliest incident in the West Bank since Israel and the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad ended three days of fighting in Gaza, the worst in more than a year.

Al-Nabulsi was a member of the recently formed "Nablus Brigade", a Palestinian militant alliance in the city which also includes Islamic Jihad's gunmen. Hours after the shootout, tens of thousands attended his funeral and called for revenge.

The gunbattle was followed by clashes during which the military said its troops responded with live fire against Palestinians throwing rocks and explosives at soldiers.

Islamic Jihad said a 16-year-old was killed while participating in a confrontation with Israeli troops.

In the West Bank city of Hebron, Palestinian health officials said a 17-year-old succumbed to his wounds after Israel shot him with live fire.

The military said it responded to a "violent riot" in the area and "a hit was identified."

Palestinian health officials confirmed the four deaths and said 40 more people were injured in total. There were no reports of Israeli casualties.

The Israeli military said al-Nabulsi had been suspected of carrying out several shooting attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers.

Israel has stepped up raids in recent months in the West Bank after men from the area carried out deadly street attacks in Israel. The Western-backed Palestinian Authority regularly condemns such incursions.

According to Palestinian officials, at least 44 Palestinians, at least half of them civilians, were killed during three days of Israeli strikes on Gaza, which ended with an Aug. 7 truce between Israel and Islamic Jihad that has largely held. The militants fired more than 1,000 rockets at southern Israel although there were no reported Israeli casualties as many rockets were intercepted by Israeli defences.

(Reporting by Ali Sawafta in Nablus, Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem; Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Bernadette Baum)