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What we know about the Israeli raid in Nablus that killed at least 11 people


To news now of a major raid by Israeli troops in the Palestinian city of Nablus today. That's in the occupied West Bank. It was a rare daytime raid in that city's crowded center. Palestinian officials say at least 11 people were killed, and they blame Israeli forces. Israel says its forces came under fire as they killed three militants who had staged attacks and were planning more. Well, this is the latest in a series of raids and attacks, raising fears the violence could escalate yet further. Joe Federman is the AP news director supervising coverage of Israel and the Palestinian territories. He's on the line now from Jerusalem. Joe, welcome.

JOE FEDERMAN: Hi. Thanks for having me on.

KELLY: Fill us in on whatever other details you have been able to nail down in terms of what actually happened today.

FEDERMAN: Well, as you mentioned, the raid took place in broad daylight, and that's something that doesn't happen that often. The army tries to operate at night. They say that this also minimizes the chances of what we saw today, civilian casualties. And the reason they moved in, in the daylight, was because they had intelligence that a wanted militant - somebody who was wanted in the killing of an Israeli soldier last fall - they had found his hideout, and they had to move quickly. So they pulled off this rare operation, but it sparked very heavy fighting.

KELLY: May I ask, have you or other AP reporters there been able to fact-check or verify that Israeli account of things in terms of just how urgent they say it was to go in and go in in the daytime?

FEDERMAN: Well, they're talking about intelligence, and that's not something that they normally share with us.

KELLY: Yeah.

FEDERMAN: What we do know is that Palestinian militant groups - and Nablus is known as a stronghold of militant groups - confirmed that the three people who were targeted in the original raid were indeed members of an armed group. In all, six of the people have been confirmed as members of militant groups. But there were also two older men. Also, a 16-year-old boy was killed.

KELLY: Wow. How are Palestinian leaders reacting to this?

FEDERMAN: It's a pattern that we've seen many times in the past. Palestinian leaders in the West Bank obviously are upset. They're appealing for the international community to hold Israel to account. But what you also see in the Gaza Strip on the other side of Israel - that's a territory that is controlled by the Hamas militant group. And Hamas came out with a very belligerent statement saying that its patience is running thin. Another group, Islamic Jihad, which also is very strong in Gaza, is vowing revenge.

KELLY: How real is the fear that this will escalate tensions - tensions that are already clearly running so high?

FEDERMAN: I'm very wary of making predictions. You can only sort of analyze from what we've seen in the past. And when there's an Israeli raid like this, there's usually a response. There could be attempts of further violence, and then things just continue to spin and build on each other.

KELLY: When you talk to people there in Jerusalem and beyond, is there a sense of weariness, of fear, of anger - what?

FEDERMAN: The people who are affected the most are in the West Bank. And if you saw the scenes in Nablus today, it started as a pinpoint raid, but it quickly spread - so heavy damage to an entire, really, neighborhood. Stores were shot up, and cars were flattened. So there's a lot of public anger on the Palestinian side. On the Israeli side, in Jerusalem, we're a little bit insulated from it. Nablus is about 30 miles or so away from here, but you can feel the tension. And the police announced not too long ago that they are going on a heightened alert now, and they are beefing up forces in Jerusalem and also in the West Bank.

KELLY: Joe Federman of the AP, The Associated Press, speaking with us from Jerusalem. Thanks very much.

FEDERMAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Halimah Abdullah
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.