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Israel is reportedly debating a wider offensive after intense battle in the West Bank


A fierce battle broke out today in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, with heavier-than-usual weaponry. Officials say Israeli troops killed at least five Palestinians, including a 15-year-old. Scores of Palestinians and some Israeli soldiers were wounded. Some in Israel are calling for a wider offensive. NPR's Daniel Estrin reports from Tel Aviv. And a warning - this story does contain the sound of gunfire.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: The Israeli military operation began just like any other operation that's taken place almost every night for more than a year now. But it went haywire very quickly, as captured on video by Palestinians and posted online.


ESTRIN: Israel says its forces raided the Palestinian city of Jenin at 4 a.m. to arrest a pair of militants, and they came under massive gunfire. A rare roadside bomb exploded as an armored vehicle drove by, and Israel deployed a combat helicopter, firing warning shots to help evacuate the soldiers, the first use of force by an attack helicopter in the West Bank since the violent days of the second intifada 20 years ago. These are new trends in more than a year of military raids into the West Bank. Lt. Colonel Richard Hecht is a spokesman for the Israeli army. He says theirs is an appropriate response.

RICHARD HECHT: We are seeing more intense capabilities of fire on our forces - gunfire, roadside bombs. The gunmen, they are much more courageous, and it's a concern. At some point, we'll probably have to assess what we're going to do about it. But right now, this was a current routine operation in Jenin like we do nearly every night.

ESTRIN: Israeli media report officials are debating whether to launch a wider offensive in the West Bank. The far-right finance minister wants air and armored forces to be deployed. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave no indication he was looking to intensify the campaign. He said military operations would press on. Palestinian analyst Ghassan Khatib from Birzeit University sees no end to violent confrontations.

GHASSAN KHATIB: These young men engaged in resisting the occupation are so young. This new generation is as insisting to reject this occupation and resist it as the generation that lived at the beginning of the occupation, my generation.

ESTRIN: Today, Assistant Secretary of State Barbara Leaf met with Palestinian officials, and the U.S. has called on Israel to help de-escalate tensions. Meanwhile, the violent entanglements are growing more intense and complex. Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Tel Aviv. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Daniel Estrin
Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.