IDF Kills 8 Palestinians in Weekend Violence in PA

2 hurt in Qassam strike; 3 militants, PA policeman, 17-year-old girl killed in W. Bank; IAF kills 1 in Gaza.

Israel Defense Forces troops killed two Palestinian militants, including a top bombmaker, during an arrest raid early Sunday in the West Bank city of Nablus, Palestinian officials said.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, an armed wing of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party, said the men were killed after IDF troops surrounded a building where they were hiding and ordered people out. Most of the occupants came out, but the two militants remained holed up inside. An exchange of fire broke out, and the two men were killed, the group said.

The group said the dead included Amin Lubadi, 20, a bombmaker who had been wanted by Israel for more than three years, and Fadel Nur, 21, both active in the militant group.

Palestinian medical officials confirmed the deaths of two men.

On Saturday, six Palestinians, including a 17-year-old girl, were killed by IDF and Border Police troops in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestinian sources said.

The sources said troops surrounded the house in the West Bank city of Jenin in which the 17-year-old, named as Bushra al-Wahish, was located, and ordered all its inhabitants to leave.

The troops were reportedly searching for the girl's brother, a wanted Islamic Jihad militant. It is unclear why she remained in the house.

Three militants were killed in the city Saturday afternoon, and a policeman was killed earlier in the day in a nearby village.

On Saturday night, a 37-year-old Palestinian man was killed and another wounded when an Israel Air Force aircraft fired a missile at a vehicle in the Jabalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip.

The Islamic Jihad militant group described the man as a civilian but said he was riding in a car with two other militants, who were seriously wounded.

The strike came after militants in the Gaza Strip fired three Qassam rockets into southern Israel on Saturday evening. One rocket landed next to a residence in the town Negev of Sderot, destroying an external wall and lightly wounding two people, and two rockets landed in open areas near the town. Four people were treated for shock.

The army confirmed it had attacked the rocket launching cell that fired the rockets at Sderot. Palestinian security officials said the dead man was a civilian.

Israeli officials defended the operations as the latest steps in their ongoing war against Palestinian militants. The IDF confirmed it had attacked the rocket launching cell that launched the rockets at Sderot.

But Palestinian leaders were quick to condemn the strikes.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas condemned the killings in a statement, saying, "These crimes are new proof on the brutality of the occupation [Israel], its pursuit of liquidation and is a futile attempt to break the will of the Palestinian people and push them to surrender."

Haniyeh urged Arab countries to help break an international aid embargo on the Palestinian government and not to normalize relations with Israel.

A top Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, former foreign minister Mahmoud a-Zahar, seized on the Israeli actions and vowed the militant group, which leads the Palestinian government, would continue to fight Israel until "the liberation of Palestine, all of Palestine."

Other Palestinian officials said the bloodshed hurt efforts to expand a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip to the West Bank.

"We condemn this," said Saeb Erekat, a top aide to Abbas. "This undermines our efforts to bring about a cessation of hostilities. As such, I believe this is very very bad."

Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rdaineh, said: "This is dangerous aggression and it will lead to instability at a time when the Palestinian Authority is making great efforts to maintain a truce. We urge the international community to intervene immediately to stop Israel's aggression."

Three Palestinian militant groups - Islamic Jihad, the Popular Resistance Committees and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades - claimed responsibility for the rocket attacks on Sderot. In a joint statement, they said the attack was to avenge the deaths of the three militants killed earlier in the West Bank.

The fighting threatened to strain the cease-fire declared last November between Israel and militants in Gaza. The truce has brought a sharp drop in fighting, though sporadic rocket attacks have continued. Israeli officials have said they will not tolerate continued rocket fire.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mark Regev said the operations in the West Bank are necessary to protect Israelis from militant attacks. Numerous suicide bombings have originated in the northern West Bank.

Regev said Israel tries to be as surgical as possible to prevent widespread fighting.

"Israeli operations in the West Bank are designed to deal with a very real terror threat," he said. "There is no doubt that these type of operations have been an extremely important ingredient in the dramatic reduction in the amount of suicide attacks in Israel."

The death toll in Saturday's fighting was the highest in the West Bank since four people were killed during an IDF raid in a West Bank vegetable market on January 4.

Closure on the territoriesMeanwhile, the army prepared to impose a closure on the West Bank and Gaza Strip for the upcoming Memorial Day and Independence Day, restricting the movement of Palestinians into Israel.

The closure was scheduled to begin at midnight Saturday, the army said. The order bars almost all Palestinians from entering Israel, though exceptions will be made for humanitarian cases, health workers and religious workers, an IDF statement said.

Thousands of Palestinians enter Israel each day to work, get medical treatment or visit relatives.

Israel routinely imposes closures ahead of major holidays. Memorial Day begins at sundown Sunday, followed by Independence Day, which begins the following evening and ends late Tuesday.

The army did not say when the closure would be lifted, but it would be "after further security assessments."

Undercover Border Police kill 4 militants in West BankUndercover Border Police officers killed four Palestinians in clashes in the West Bank, including three militants killed when troops opened fire at their vehicle.

The three militants were ambushed while riding in a vehicle in Jenin, a northern West Bank town known as a stronghold of armed groups. Weapons were later found in the car.

The dead militants included two members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades and a member of Islamic Jihad. There were no other occupants in the car.

The IDF said a special unit operating in Jenin came under fire from the car. It said the troops returned fire, hitting the vehicle.

Earlier, IDF troops operating in a village outside of Jenin shot dead a Palestinian policeman.

Palestinian sources said that soldiers operating in the village of Kafr Dan had surrounded the family home of Muhammad Abed before breaking into the home and shooting in all directions.

Witnesses said the man was not involved in the fighting and he was shot through the window of his house.

The soldiers killed Abed, 22, a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the sources said, and later left the village taking five people with them.

An IDF spokeswoman said troops operating in the village had come under attack from Palestinian militants.

"(The troops) shot at an armed militant," the spokeswoman said, adding that they saw he had been hit.