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Palestinian gunmen killed near West Bank Samaritan community

Three Palestinians have been shot dead after opening fire on Israeli soldiers near Nablus in the occupied West Bank, Israel's military has said.

The troops were guarding the Samaritans, a tiny community which traces its origins back to biblical Israelite tribes.

Security camera footage shows a figure shooting at two soldiers who return fire before a two-minute gun battle.

It comes amid spiralling Israeli-Palestinian tensions in the West Bank.

Since the start of the year, more than 160 Palestinians - militants and civilians - have been killed by Israeli forces or settlers in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

On the Israeli side, at least 30 people - including two foreigners and a Palestinian worker - have been killed in attacks or apparent attacks by Palestinians. All were civilians except one off-duty serving soldier and a member of the Israeli security forces.

In the incident on Tuesday morning, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said the soldiers were fired at from a car. It said the soldiers returned fire "neutralising the terrorists".

It said weapons, cartridges and military equipment were found and seized.

The official Palestinian Wafa news agency said Israeli forces took away the bodies of the men, who it said were aged between 32 and 43, and their vehicle.

The area where the incident took place is home to the Samaritans, a community believed to number fewer than 900, half of which live in Israel and the other half under Palestinian rule outside Nablus. Unusually, its members hold both Israeli and Palestinian citizenship.


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