More than 80 Palestinians suffered gunshot wounds, the Palestinian ministry said, in what the Israeli army called a “counter-terrorism” operation, spurring international concern and calls for calm.
Top Palestinian official Hussein Al Sheikh decried the incursion as a “massacre” and called for “international protection for our people.”
The Israeli army said the raid targeted militant suspects “in a hideout apartment” accused of shootings in the West Bank. It added troops came under live fire but suffered no casualties.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said “the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory is at its most combustible in years”, with tensions “sky high” as “the peace process remains stalled.”
“Our immediate priority must be to prevent further escalation, reduce tensions and restore calm,” Guterres told the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.
The death toll surpassed that of an Israeli army raid last month in Jenin, further north, which had been the deadliest West Bank operation since the second intifada, or Palestinian uprising, of 2000 to 2005.
The Israeli military said one of the wanted suspects who had fled the building was “neutralised”, along with two others who had opened fire at the property.
The suspects and Israeli forces “exchanged fire… there were also rockets that were fired on the house” by the army, spokesman Richard Hecht told journalists.
Rocks, explosive devices and Molotov cocktails were hurled at the troops, the army said.
The Palestinian health ministry said those killed “as a result of the occupation’s aggression on Nablus” were aged between 16 and 72.
Hours after the raid, the ministry announced the death of a 66-year-old man of tear gas inhalation.
– ‘Explosions and gunfire’ –
A further 82 people were admitted to hospitals with gunshot wounds, Palestinian health officials said.
Mostafa Shaheen, a Nablus resident, said “soldiers… besieged the whole area” at around 9:30 am (0730 GMT).
“We kept hearing the explosions and gunfire,” he told AFP.
The wounded include Palestine TV journalist Mohammed Al Khatib, who was shot in the hand, his colleague told AFP.
The Islamic Jihad militant group said one of its commanders was killed “in a heroic battle”.
The Gaza-based group’s leader Ziad al-Nakhala called the raid a “major crime” that “the resistance must respond to.”
The Lions’ Den, a militant group based in Nablus, said six of those killed were members of various Palestinian factions.
Troops withdrew from the city after three hours, an AFP journalist said.
Hailing the forces’ “courage”, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said on Twitter Israel’s “long arm” will reach “any terrorist.”
In the afternoon, a huge crowd of mourners including armed men gathered in central Nablus as well as in the nearby Balata refugee camp for the funerals of 10 of those killed, AFP correspondents said.
The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said its medics had treated 250 cases of tear gas inhalation and dozens of gunshot wounds.
– ‘Spiralling violence’ –
The Arab League said the raid amounted to a “heinous crime.”
“The occupation authorities and the far-right Israeli government are responsible for this horrible massacre,” said Saeed Abu Ali, the League’s assistant secretary-general for Palestinian affairs.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington was “extremely concerned by the levels of violence.”
“We recognise the very real security concerns facing Israel. At the same time, we are deeply concerned by the large number of injuries and the loss of civilian lives.”
The European Union “is deeply alarmed by the spiralling violence in the West Bank,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.
He called on “all parties” to works towards “restoring calm and… avoid further loss of life.”
Neighbouring Jordan said it would “work intensely with all parties to achieve” calm.
Since the start of this year, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has claimed the lives of 60 Palestinian adults and children, including militants and civilians.
Nine Israeli civilians, including three children, a police officer and one Ukrainian civilian have been killed over the same period, according to an AFP tally based on official sources from both sides.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke Saturday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and separately with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, calling on both to “restore calm”.
Israel has occupied the Palestinian territory since the Six-Day War of 1967.
Last year was the deadliest year in the territory since the United Nations started tracking casualties in 2005.