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Israel kills 6 Palestinians in surge of violence

NABLUS, West Bank — Israeli troops blasted their way into the homes of three wanted Palestinians on Saturday, killing each in a hail of bullets and straining an uneasy security arrangement with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel’s military said the three, affiliated with a violent offshoot of Abbas’ Fatah movement, were targeted for killing an Israeli settler in a roadside ambush earlier in the week and had turned down a chance to surrender.

In the Gaza Strip, three young men approaching Israel’s southern border were killed by shots from an Israeli helicopter gunship. Saturday’s deaths made it one of the deadliest days in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since Israel waged war on Gaza’s Islamic militant Hamas rulers a year ago.

The violent Nablus raids, after months of relative quiet, embarrassed Western-backed Abbas, whose security forces have been coordinating some of their moves with their Israeli counterparts and share a common foe, Hamas.

At the funeral for the slain men, Abbas’ security policy was denounced by thousands of mourners, who chanted: “Why the coordination while we are under the bullets of the army?”

Abbas’ prime minister, Salam Fayyad, rushed to Nablus in an apparent attempt at damage control, paying his respects at a large communal wake and condeming Israel. “This attack was a clear assassination, and I believe it is targeting our security and stability,” Fayyad told The Associated Press.

Israel did not let Abbas know of the raid in advance, said Maj. Peter Lerner, an Israeli army spokesman.

Saturday’s killings put to the test an often strained relationship between Israel’s military and Abbas’ security. Since the violent takeover of Gaza by Hamas in 2007, Abbas has gradually strengthened his control in West Bank towns to keep the Islamists there in check.

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