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Israeli Shootout Kills Three Palestinians

Three Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces in the West Bank in a shootout during a raid on a hideout of a wanted Hamas militant.

The killings drew swift condemnations from Palestinian officials and cast a pall over efforts to extend US-sponsored peace talks beyond an April deadline.

Israeli forces have killed several Palestinians, most of them unarmed, in a spate of incidents in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in recent weeks, heightening tensions on the ground with no signs of diplomatic progress.

The army said that special forces and intelligence agents carried out a raid on Saturday in the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank to arrest Hamza Abu al Hija, a militant from the Islamist group Hamas.

Peter Lerner, an army spokesman, called Abu al Hija a “ticking bomb” who was wanted for bombings and shootings and “involved in advanced stages of preparation of more attacks” against Israeli soldiers and civilians in the West Bank, directed by Hamas operatives in Gaza.

Lerner said that when the special forces arrived at Abu al Hija’s safe-house in the early morning hours, he opened fire, drawing return fire and a call on all occupants to leave the building.

Abu al Hija continued to fire at troops, shot an attack dog sent in to disable him, and lightly wounded two Israeli officers during an escape attempt before he was killed, Lerner said.

The owner of the house, Azmi Husniya, told the Reuters news agency that he had seen Abu al Hija jump from a window while trying to flee following gunfire at the building that lasted about half an hour.

The raid triggered street clashes between soldiers and local residents, who pelted troops with rocks and firebombs, the army said.

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