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Israeli soldiers shoot dead three Palestinian gunmen in West Bank

Israeli soldiers shot dead three Palestinian gunmen after they fired at troops in the occupied northern West Bank near Nablus, the army said on Sunday, as violence in the region continued.

“Three armed gunmen were neutralised during the exchange of fire and an additional armed gunman surrendered himself to the forces,” the army said in a statement, noting none of the Israeli forces were wounded in the clash.

The soldiers, members of the elite infantry Golani reconnaissance unit, grabbed three M-16 rifles and a pistol used by the Palestinians, the army said.

Palestinian medical and security sources had no information on the event.

Violence intensified last year, but has worsened in the West Bank since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned to office in December in a governing coalition with ultra-Orthodox Jewish and extreme-right allies.

The government of Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption on charges he denies, has vowed to continue the expansion of West Bank settlements.

On Thursday, a member of the armed wing of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas opened fire outside a Tel Aviv cafe, wounding three men in their 30s before being shot dead.

Hours before, three armed Palestinians were killed in an Israeli military operation in the northern West Bank.

Calls for revenge
Several Palestinian armed groups had called on Tuesday for revenge for the recent deaths of six Palestinians in an Israeli army raid in the northern West Bank.

The Tel Aviv attack came just hours after Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin had called for de-escalation ahead of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan that starts in March and the Jewish holiday of Passover in April.

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Austin, following talks with Netanyahu and his counterpart Yoav Gallant during a brief visit to Israel, also called on the “Palestinian leadership to combat terrorism and to resume security cooperation and to condemn incitement”.

A Palestinian from a nearby village was arrested on Saturday for having placed an explosive device on the bus, along with four others suspected of aiding him, the army said.

Since the start of the year, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has claimed the lives of 81 Palestinian adults and children, including militants and civilians.