Three Palestinian men accused by Israel of carrying out a spate of attacks have been shot dead in an Israeli operation in the occupied West Bank.
The military wing of the Palestinian Fatah faction confirmed that the dead men were its members and said they were killed in “a cowardly assassination”.
Israeli police said they were armed and were killed during clashes with an undercover unit in the city of Nablus.
It is the highest single death toll in an action of this kind for months.
In September, five Palestinians were killed in an Israeli operation in the West Bank. Israel said all five belonged to the Gaza-based militant group Hamas, which said four were members.
In Tuesday’s incident, the three Palestinians were shot dead inside a silver car stopped in the middle of a road. Pictures showed the windscreen and the bonnet riddled with bullet holes.
Palestinian witnesses said Israeli undercover forces riding in a taxi had opened fire.
It is rare for operations like this to take place in the daytime, the Times of Israel newspaper reports. It says it is also unusual for the targets to belong to the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades.
Israel’s Shin Bet security service stated that three men were from a “terrorist squad” that had recently carried out a series of shooting attacks targeting Israeli soldiers and civilians.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said: “Our forces have proven today, once again, that there is no immunity for terrorists. Whoever harms us – will be harmed.”
The Palestinian foreign ministry condemned the killings as a “field execution” and said the Israeli government was “fully and directly responsible”.
The al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades vowed to avenge its members’ deaths, warning that “blood will be met with blood”.
Hamas, its rival, said the men died “resisting the occupation” and that “their work will be carried on to achieve victory”.