NABLUS, WEST BANK (REUTERS) - Israeli forces killed two Palestinian militants in a pre-dawn gun battle in the occupied West Bank on Sunday (July 24), and off the coast of the Gaza Strip, attacked a fishing boat accused of smuggling in Hamas supplies from Egypt after its two crewmen escaped.
The Palestinian Health Ministry confirmed the death of two men and said six more were wounded in the clash at a house in the Palestinian city of Nablus. The Fatah Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades militant group claimed the two dead as its members.
Israel security forces on an apparent arrest raid outside the house of a wanted suspect came under fire by gunmen and "responded with live fire and other means until neutralising the terrorists inside the house and on its roof," police said.
A neighbour, Naser Estitya, 60, said he heard gunshots from inside the house before the Israeli forces fired heavily at the house. "They were calling the name of one person, asking him to surrender," he said.
Photos from the scene showed part of the wall at the top floor had been destroyed.
"Another crime committed by the occupation forces in the old city of #Nablus, where martyrs have fallen and many wounded," Mr Hussein al-Sheikh, a senior Palestinian official, said on Twitter. "We strongly condemn this crime, and we hold the occupation responsibility for its repercussions."
US-brokered peace talks aimed at establishing a Palestinian state in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza collapsed in 2014 and have shown no sign of revival.
Israeli forces have 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.
Separately, the Palestinian fishermen’s union said two crew members dove into Mediterranean waters and swam to safety before the Israeli navy fired on their boat. A picture circulated on social media showed black smoke rising close to the Gaza coast.
A military spokesperson said the vessel had come from Egypt and strayed from Israel’s maritime cordon on Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas Islamists. The navy fired on the boat after it did not heed orders to stop, the military said, adding that it carried unspecified supplies for Hamas.
Mr Nizar Ayyash, chairman of the fishermen union, described the two crewmen as fishermen, telling Reuters: “The boat was completely burnt and destroyed, I think it may have sunk but fishermen on board jumped and swam to the shore. It wasn’t the first time they made such allegations and at the end these allegations proved baseless.”