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Palestinians: Influential militant, 5 others killed

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West Bank
Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades

RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN) -- An influential Palestinian militant and five others were killed Saturday in the old city of Nablus during an Israeli operation, according to Palestinian sources.

The six -- five members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and one from Hamas -- had been hiding in the house for days, and they were wanted by Israel, Palestinian security sources said.

One of them was Nayef Abu Sharkh, head of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the old city, the Nablus governor's office said.

He was considered by many to have been the most important Al Aqsa militant in the West Bank.

Also killed in the raid was Jaafar Masri, the leader of Hamas' military wing, Izzedine al-Qassam Brigade, in Nablus.

The raid came during a two-day Israeli operation to root out militants.

Israeli military sources said forces entered a house in the old city and found a secret room or hiding place behind a toilet.

When they saw movement in the room, they opened fire and threw hand grenades, the sources said.

The Nablus governor's office said five of the six were hiding in the dwelling when it was blown up.

But 90 minutes before that, one of the six, Nidal Alwawi, left the house and was killed, the office said.

Palestinian officials are investigating to see whether there was another person in the house.

The other three dead have been identified as Wajdi Qaddoumi, Omar Mussmar, and Samer Aqoub. They were members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

The United States and Israel consider the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Hamas to be terrorist organizations. The groups have carried out numerous attacks against civilians.

Palestinian Authority Cabinet minister Saeb Erakat said "we condemn the Israeli escalation that killed at least six Palestinians.

"This comes when we're meeting with U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns and at the time Egyptians are exerting all efforts to break the vicious cycle of violence.

"The Israeli military escalation threatens to undermine these efforts."

There was no immediate Israeli political reaction.

CNN's Sausan Ghosheh contributed to this report.

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