Israel kills 5 Palestinian fighters in West Bank air strike

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) -An Israeli air strike killed five Palestinian fighters and wounded two other people in the occupied West Bank on Saturday, their faction, medics and Israel's military said.

Palestinian media said the attack in Balata, near the northern city of Nablus, appeared to have been carried out by a warplane in what would mark an escalation of Israeli tactics in the West Bank. The military did not immediately confirm that.

The West Bank has seen a surge of violence in parallel to Israel's six-week-old war against Hamas Islamists in the Gaza Strip, another territory where Palestinians seek statehood.

In a statement, the military said it struck "a number of terrorists (in Balata) ... and prevented terror attacks against Israeli civilians". The strike was carried out by one of its aircraft, it added, without specifying the type.

An armed wing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party claimed the five dead as its fighters.

At least 186 West Bank Palestinians, including 51 children, have been killed by Israeli forces since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that triggered the Gaza war, according to U.N. figures. Another eight have been killed by Israeli settlers, while four Israelis have been killed by Palestinians, according to the figures.

(Reporting by Ali Sawafta; editing by Diane Craft, Rosalba O'Brien and Tomasz Janowski)