January 16, 2008 / 6:01 AM / 11 years ago

Israel kills West Bank militant leader

People carry a Palestinian on a stretcher after he was injured by Israeli troops during a raid in Gaza January 15, 2008. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

JENIN, West Bank (Reuters) - Israeli forces shot dead a leader of the Islamic Jihad militant group in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday and killed three Palestinians in Gaza, medics said.

The violence came a day after Israel killed at least 18 Palestinians in Gaza, most of them Hamas militants — the highest number of Palestinians killed by the Jewish state in a single day since late 2006.

Israeli troops operating on Wednesday in the northern West Bank town of Qabatiya, near the city of Jenin, killed Walid Obeidi in a gunfight, wounding and arresting two other militants, Palestinian witnesses said.

An Israeli army spokesman said Obeidi was killed during an exchange of fire with troops who came to arrest him.

Separately, Palestinian medical workers and witnesses said an Israeli missile strike targeting a car carrying Islamic Jihad militants in the Gaza Strip killed three nearby Palestinians including a boy and a man wearing a military-style uniform.

Islamic Jihad confirmed its car was hit but said the militants escaped. The Israeli army said it struck a vehicle in Gaza and three militants were killed.

The Palestinian Authority called Tuesday’s Gaza violence, which came four days after George W. Bush visited the region, a “slap in the face” to the U.S. president’s peace efforts.

Israel pulled troops and settlers out of Gaza in 2005 but it regularly carries out air strikes in the Hamas-controlled territory against militants who fire rockets over the border.

Israeli forces also frequently raid West Bank towns in search of militants suspected of involvement in attacks against Israelis.

Reporting by Wael al-Ahmed in Jenin, Atef Sa'ad in Nablus and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Writing by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Charles Dick

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