NABLUS, West Bank -- Israeli troops on Thursday killed three Palestinian militants wanted in connection with a shooting attack that killed a British-Israeli woman and two of her daughters, the Israeli military said, the latest bloodshed in a relentless wave of violence.
In a rare daytime incursion launched as residents were starting their day, the military said forces entered the heart of the flash-point city of Nablus and raided an apartment where the men were located. Troops and the suspects exchanged fire and the three men were killed.
The military said the men were behind an attack last month on a car near a Jewish West Bank settlement that killed Lucy Dee, the British-Israeli mother and two of her daughters, Maya and Rina. Leo Dee, the woman's widower, told The Associated Press he was "comforted" by the news of the militants' death.
In a statement after the raid, the Hamas militant group said the three men, identified as Hassan Qatnani, Moaz al-Masri and Ibrahim Jabr, were its members and the group claimed responsibility for the April attack.
In a separate incident Thursday near the West Bank town of Hawara, a 20-year-old soldier shot and killed a 26-year-old Palestinian woman who had stabbed and lightly wounded him.
In Nablus, Israeli shells ripped through the roof of the gunmen's safe house in the heart of Nablus' Old City, leaving nothing but twisted metal, cement blocks and torn mattresses still stained with blood scattered over the rubble. A couple of hours after the army withdrew, young men collected scores of ejected bullet shell casings from the narrow alleys.
Nablus, the West Bank's commercial capital and second-largest city, has been the scene of repeated Israeli raids over the past year, but few have been conducted during the day because of the increased risk of friction with local residents. Residents have been caught up in previous fighting.
Manal Abu Safiyeh, 57, said she woke up at 7 a.m. to the sounds of the Israeli army vehicles rumbling through the city. Although it wasn't new to her after a year of intense violence in the Old City, the gunfire sounded closer than she'd ever heard it before. An explosion suddenly blew up her neighbor's house, she said, killing three people. She said she didn't know much about her neighbors other than that Ibrahim Jabr had cancer.
A man who identified himself only as Kareem for fear of reprisals said that he spotted older men and a woman in a long overgarment worn by Muslim women who he had never seen before walking through the limestone alleys and knew instantly they were Israeli special forces. He ran to his house and sheltered there until he heard the gunfire stop.
"So many men from the city have been killed," he said. "We are used to these raids. That's the story of life in Nablus."
After the military pulled out, dozens of masked men paraded through the city while shooting into the air, waving Palestinian flags as onlookers honked in support. A sea of mourners at the men's funeral chanted "God is great."
The violence in Nablus comes at a particularly sensitive time in the region, days after a prominent Palestinian prisoner who was staging a lengthy hunger strike over his detention died in Israeli custody. His death set off a volley of rockets from militants in Gaza and Israeli airstrikes in the coastal enclave that killed one man.
Information for this article was contributed by Alon Bernstein of The Associated Press.