Palestinian Death Toll in West Bank Surges as Israel Pursues Militants Following Hamas Rampage

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Deadly violence has been surging in the West Bank as the Israeli military pursues Palestinian militants in the aftermath of the Hamas attack from Gaza, with more than 90 Palestinians killed in the Israeli-occupied territory in the past two weeks, mainly in clashes with Israeli troops.

The violence threatens to open another front in the 2-week-old war, and puts pressure on the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the West Bank and is deeply unpopular among Palestinians, in large part because it cooperates with Israel on security matters.

The tally includes six Palestinians killed in separate incidents on Sunday, including two who died in an airstrike on a mosque in the volatile Jenin refugee camp that Israel said was being used by militants. Israel carried out an airstrike during a battle in another West Bank refugee camp last week, in which 13 Palestinians, including five minors, and a member of Israel's paramilitary Border Police were killed.

Israel rarely uses air power in the occupied West Bank, even as it has bombarded Hamas-ruled Gaza since the militant group stormed across the border on Oct. 7.

More than 1,400 people have been killed in Israel since the war began, mostly civilians killed in the initial Hamas assault. The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza says over 4,300 Palestinians have been killed.

The Palestinian Health Ministry in the West Bank says 91 Palestinians have been killed there since Oct. 7. In the rest of the year leading up to the Hamas attack, 197 Palestinians were killed, according to an Associated Press count.

In addition to the raids, Palestinians have been killed in violent anti-Israel protests and in some instances in attacks by Jewish settlers.

Israel clamped down on the territory immediately after the Hamas assault, closing crossings and checkpoints between Palestinian towns. Israel says its forces have detained over 700 suspects in the West Bank, including 480 members of Hamas, since the start of hostilities.

Israel's resumption of aerial attacks -- which in a July operation in Jenin reached a level of intensity not seen since the Palestinian uprising against Israel two decades ago -- suggests a shift in military tactics.

The military described the Al-Ansar Mosque in Jenin as a militant compound belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, a smaller and more radical Palestinian militant group. It said the militants had carried out several attacks in recent months and were planning another imminent assault.

The intensified violence follows more than a year of escalating raids and arrests in the West Bank and deadly Palestinian attacks on Israelis.

Israel captured the West Bank, along with Gaza and east Jerusalem, in the 1967 war. The Palestinians want all three territories for a future state. Over 500,000 Israelis live in settlements across the West Bank that most of the international community considers illegal, while the territory's more than 2.5 million Palestinians live under Israeli military rule.

The Palestinians view the settlements as the greatest obstacle to resolving the conflict with Israel. The last serious and substantive peace talks broke down over a decade ago.

Settler violence against Palestinians has also intensified since the Hamas attack. At least five Palestinians have been killed by settlers, according to Palestinian authorities, and rights groups say settlers have torched cars and attacked several small Bedouin communities, forcing them to evacuate to other areas.

The West Bank Protection Consortium, a coalition of non-governmental organizations and donor countries, including the European Union, says at least 470 Palestinians have been forcibly displaced in the West Bank due to settler violence since Oct. 7. That's in addition to over 1,100 displaced since 2022.