Israeli forces kill a Palestinian militant in the West Bank, the latest death in a wave of violence

This is a locator map of Israel and the Palestinian Territories. (AP Photo)

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian militant in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, the latest death in an unabating wave of violence to grip the region.

The death brings the number of Palestinians killed in the West Bank this year to 168, according to a tally by The Associated Press. It happened amid soaring tensions surrounding Israel's continuing raids into Palestinian areas in the territory and after the release to house arrest of a Jewish settler accused of involvement in the killing last week of a 19-year-old Palestinian man.

In the latest violence, the Palestinian Health Ministry said Thursday that Israeli troops killed Amir Ahmed Khalifa, 27, in the West Bank town of Zawata, north of the city Nablus. The area has been a flashpoint for fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinians.

The Israeli military said a gunman opened fire at soldiers operating in the Nablus area and they shot back. At least 27 people have died in Palestinian attacks against Israelis this year.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, an armed offshoot of the secular Fatah party, later Thursday claimed Khalifa as a member.

Israel has staged near-nightly incursions in Palestinian areas in what it says is a bid to dismantle militant networks and thwart future attacks. The raids have sparked some of the worst fighting between the sides in the West Bank in about two decades and driven up the death toll.

Israel says most of those killed have been militants, but stone-throwing youths protesting the raids and others not involved in confrontations have also been killed.

Israel captured the West Bank, along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians seek those territories for their hoped-for independent state.