Israeli troops kill five in West Bank
Israeli soldiers have killed five Palestinian militants during raids in the West Bank, Palestinian security officials said.
Israeli undercover soldiers in civilian clothes shot dead four militants outside a bakery in the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem Wednesday evening, after intercepting them and taking them by surprise, Palestinian security officials said.
Three of them belonged to the radical Islamic Jihad movement, while the fourth was a member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, they said.
According to Israeli military the troops had sought to arrest the four militants, but opened fire when they identified they were carrying semi-automatic rifles and pistols.
Shahadeh had been wanted by Israel for eight years because of his involvement in a number of deadly suicide bombings, the military said.
The other three were also linked to the suicide attacks, it said.
Earlier in the day, Israeli soldiers killed another senior Islamic Jihad commander, Saleh Karkour, during an arrest raid in the northern West Bank.
The West Bank deaths come as Egypt is trying to broker a truce between Israel and armed Palestinian factions, focusing on Gaza, which has witnessed the worst violence in recent months and years.
At least 125 Palestinians were killed in late February-early March during five days of the deadliest Israeli-Palestinian fighting in Gaza in 40 years.
Gaza however has been relatively calm over the past few days, with militants reducing their rocket attacks against southern Israel and the Israeli military scaling down operations in the Strip, amid reports the sides have reached an informal "truce" understanding.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert however has vehemently denied the existence of any understanding.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniya Wednesday called Wednesday for a comprehensive truce in both Gaza and the West Bank.
Israel refuses to engage Hamas, which does not recognize its right to exist, and instead has renewed peace talks with Mahmud Abbas, of the rival Fatah party.
Egypt is nevertheless expected to host talks with Hamas, Fatah and the Islamic Jihad in Cairo before the end of March on a possible indirect truce with Israel, an Islamic Jihad leader said on Wednesday.