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Palestinian killed in West Bank shootout, Israeli police say

Israeli police say a Palestinian militant has been killed in a shootout with Israeli forces in the West Bank.

Uncle says Basil al-Araj didn't fit the typical profile of a militant

A home in Ramallah in the West Bank was the scene of a shootout Monday involving Israeli forces and Palestinian fugitive Basil al-Araj. Police said he was killed after he fired upon police (Mohamad Torokman/Reuters)

Israeli police say a Palestinian militant was killed Monday in a shootout with Israeli forces in the West Bank.

Police said Basil al-Araj, 31, headed a group planning attacks against Israeli targets and collected weapons for the group. He was detained by Palestinian forces last year for about a month.

Police said in a statement that Israeli forces entered the Ramallah area in the West Bank to arrest al-Araj, and he opened fire, leading to a shootout that killed him. The police published photos of two firearms it said were found on the scene.

However, al-Araj's uncle said his nephew didn't fit the typical profile of a Palestinian attacker. 

Khalid al-Araj said his nephew was an intellectual who devoted much of his time to reading and researching, particularly about the history and geography of Palestine. He said he never belonged to any particular faction but believed that intellectuals should express their thoughts in action and not only words.

Palestinians protested and threw stones at the Israeli forces, and police say their forces shot and wounded two Palestinians.

Also on Monday, the Islamist group Hamas said Israel arrested two of its lawmakers in the West Bank.

Man embrace inside the house of Basil al-Araj in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on Monday. Al-Araj's uncle described him as an intellectual who devoted much of his time to reading and researching. (Majdi Mohammed/Associated Press)

Since a recent wave of violence began in October 2015, nearly 40 Israelis have died in attacks carried out by Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. Meanwhile, more than 200 Palestinians — most of them attackers, according to Israel — have been killed.

Israel says the violence is fuelled by a Palestinian campaign of incitement. The Palestinians say it stems from anger over decades of Israeli rule in territory they claim for a state.

​The Palestinian Authority arrested al-Araj in March 2016 on charges of planning to carry out a military attack against Israelis, and was released in September after a nine-day hunger strike. Since then he became a fugitive and Israeli forces raided his house several times.