Israeli security forces on Tuesday killed three armed Palestinians suspected of planning a terrorist attack against Israel in the coming days.

The three were killed in a joint raid by troops from the special police unit and the Shin Bet in the South Hebron Hills village of Kafr Yatta.

The suspects were members of a Salafist group operating in the Hebron area, the Shin Bet said in a statement, adding that pistols and explosive devices were found in their vehicle during the raid.

A senior Israeli officer said that a manhunt had been out after this particular group for the last week. He said the Israeli forces had opened fired in the direction of a vehicle carrying two of the passengers during the raid, and that an exchange of fire subsequently erupted.

"This is a local organization of a cell with an extreme religious orientation," said the officer. He said forces were currently chasing other suspects in the territory. 

Witnesses told Haaretz that large forces surrounded several houses in the eastern edge of the village and declared the area a closed military site, preventing the residents from leaving their homes for hours on end, and that many youths clashed with the soldiers, hurling stones at them, and being repelled by gas grenades and rubber bullets.

Yatta residents identified the dead as Moussa Pansha, 22, Mohammed Nairuh, 23, and Mahmoud Anjar, also in his twenties, adding that all three were members of the Salafist movement of the village. There were contradictory reports as to whether the three were killed after exchanges of fire or were ambushed by an Israeli unit.

The Shin Bet investigation revealed that the cell had planned a series of terrorist attacks against Israeli targets, apparently plotting to kidnap and Israeli soldier, and against targets in the Palestinian Authority. A number of activists from the same terrorist cell had recently been arrested in the Hebron and Nablus areas, said the Shin Bet.

A wanted Palestinian was killed about a month ago near the West Bank village of Bili'in an exchange of fire with Israeli forces that had come to arrest him.

The Palestinian, 28-year-old Mohammed Aatsi, had been one of the masterminds behind the bombing of a Tel Aviv bus during Operation Pillar of Defense. He had been arrested several times in the past for his activity with the Islamic Jihad terror group.

Another two Palestinians, also activists with the Islamic Jihad, were arrested in the same raid.