Three killed in Israeli raids in West Bank, Palestinian officials say

A man walks past a closed exchange office building that was damaged and targeted during an Israeli military operation, in Tulkarm

By Ali Sawafta

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Israeli forces killed three men in raids across the occupied West Bank on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, during which money-changing shops were searched, the Palestinian Health Ministry and Palestinian officials said.

Ayman Ahmad Mubarak, 26, Husam Imad Da’bas, 22, and Mohammed Yusif Nasrallah, 27, were killed as Israeli forces moved into the city of Tulkarm and took up positions in central areas, the Health Ministry said.

Israel's military did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Tulkarm is a flashpoint city in the West Bank, where violent clashes between occupying Israeli forces and Palestinians were already increasing before the Gaza war began in October.

Raids also took place in the governorates of Ramallah, Hebron, Jenin, Nablus, Tubas and Qalqilya, and included more than a dozen arrests, the Palestine Monetary Authority said in a statement.

Increased violence in the West Bank, the largest and most populous Palestinian territory under Israeli occupation, risks wider escalation in the region as the Gaza war rages on.

Since the start of that conflict, triggered by the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Palestinian militants, there have been regular Israeli army raids on militant groups, rampages by Jewish settlers in Palestinian villages, and street attacks by Palestinians on Israelis.

Thousands of Palestinians have been arrested and hundreds killed during regular operations by Israeli army and police. Many of the victims were members of armed groups. Others were stone-throwing youths and uninvolved civilians.

The Palestine Monetary Authority condemned the raids on money changing shops, saying cash had been confiscated and workers interrogated.

The shops are "subject to the supervision of the Monetary Authority and are subject to strict compliance standards," the authority's governor Feras Milhem said in a statement.

Hani Abu Moyes, who owns a money changing company called al-Khaleej with 11 branches, said several of his employees had been detained. He accused Israeli forces of staging the raids to grab money.

"We don't do anything illegal and we work under the umbrella of the Palestine Monetary Authority," he said by phone. "So far I haven't finished my calculation of how much money has been confiscated but we are talking about large amounts".

Money changing shops are an important part of the financial landscape of the West Bank.

Many Palestinians in the territory prefer U.S. dollars or Jordanian dinars for big purchases such as land, houses or vehicles, though Israeli shekels are used for daily life. Many also have relatives living and working overseas who use money changers to send money home.

(Reporting by Ali Sawafta, Writing by Angus McDowall, Editing by Timothy Heritage)