An IDF officer and a soldier were seriously hurt early Sunday in shootouts with Palestinian militants during an arrest raid in the West Bank, in which five Palestinian gunmen were killed, Israeli military spokesperson said.
It was the deadliest violence between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants in the West Bank in recent weeks and came amid heightened tensions following this year's 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The arrest operation took place in five different locations and targeted a Hamas cell that was planning to carry out a massive terrorist attack in Israel in the immediate future, according to the Israeli military.
The two, a 24-year-old officer and a 21-year-old soldier from the Duvdevan counter-terrorism unit both suffered multiple gunshot wounds near Jenin, and were transferred to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa for emergency treatment.
"This morning around 5:30 AM, we received two seriously wounded patients, who suffered multiple penetrating injuries in many places on their bodies,” said Dr. Hani Bahus, director of the hospital's trauma and emergency surgery unit.
“Several surgeries were performed on the two until their condition stabilized. They were then transferred directly to general intensive care. They are both expected to undergo further surgeries. Their lives are no longer in immediate danger,” he added.
"Tonight, the IDF, together with the Shin Beit and the Border Police special forces acted against a Hamas terrorist cell and prevented the execution of future terrorist attacks," said Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
"I would like to wish only health to the two wounded in the operation and to encourage their families. We will continue to act against terrorism wherever it tries to rear its head in order to ensure the security of the citizens of Israel. "
According to Palestinian media, one of the five Palestinian gunmen killed was Osama Sabah, an Islamic Jihad militant. Three of the other casualties were identified as Ahmad Zahran, Mahmoud Hamidan and Zakaria Baduan, all affiliated with Hamas.
In addition to the five killed, several Palestinians were also reportedly wounded in the clashes. Four other Palestinians were arrested near the Jenin area.
Hamas called on Palestinians in the West Bank "to escalate resistance against the occupier in all areas" after the raids. A Hamas spokesman said the four men belonged to the group, which Israel and the West regard as a terrorist organization.
"The blood of the dead has not been shed in vain," said Hamas in a statement.
Hamas also blamed Sunday’s violent clashes on the Palestinian Authority, with whom the terrorist organization has been locked in an ongoing political battle over the Palestinian elections.
"It is the security coordination and normalization of the Palestinian Authority with Israel that caused Israel to attack Hamas and kill its members," Hamas said.
“Only resistance of all kinds will make it possible to stop Israel's crimes. The blood of those killed today is the fuel that drives the continued resistance."
The Islamic Jihad terrorist group also responded to Sunday's violent clashes, saying that “dark days await Israel in the West Bank. Its crimes will only intensify its resistance and unity.”
Islamic Jihad spokesman in Gaza, Daoud Shihab, said that "the resistance factions have the right to respond in the appropriate ways and means. The resistance has the capacity and this crime will not break the resistance in the West Bank and it will surprise Israel as it promised."