The three belonged to the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the armed wing of the Fatah organization, according to the militant group, which named them as Mohammad Al Dakhil, Adham Mabrook and Ashraf Mubaslat.
Israel said the men were responsible for at least five shooting attacks on Israeli army positions in the West Bank over recent months and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the operation showed there was “no immunity for terrorists.”
But the Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry described the men’s deaths as an assassination.
Video of the immediate aftermath of the fatal incident shows a silver car, with its doors open and what appear to be multiple bullet holes in the front windscreen, surrounded by two vans.
About 10 Israeli security personnel can be seen moving around the vehicles, with others taking up defensive positions close by. The operation had been several weeks in the planning, according to an Israeli police commander, who said that the suspects had opened fire on Israeli forces, who then responded in kind. Two M16 assault rifles were found in the suspects’ car, Israeli police said.
In a tweet, with a photo of the bullet ridden vehicle, the PLO said soldiers jumped out of a Palestinian public taxi and shot and killed three Palestinians.
“This is what the aftermath of an extrajudicial killing by Israeli occupation forces looks like,” it reads.
A few hours later, thousands of people gathered in the center of Nablus as the bodies of the three men, wrapped in Palestinian flags, were born aloft on their way to be buried. Many mourners fired guns into the air in tribute.
A tweet from a senior Fatah leader, Mahmoud Al-Aloul, captured a widely held sentiment, “May the souls of the martyrs of the Mountain of Fire [which overlooks Nablus] rest in peace, those who sacrificed their blood for the land, on the way to freedom and independence.”
Three days of mourning have been declared and the Palestinian news agency WAFA reports a general strike is underway across the West Bank with shops and schools closed.
Israel’s Prime Minister hailed the operation that led to the deaths of the men saying it showed there was “no immunity for terrorists.”
Palestinian Authority officials say the deaths should be examined by the International Criminal Court as part of its investigation into suspected Israeli war crimes in the West Bank.
This story has been updated with new developments.