Israeli Military Launches Major Operation in West Bank City of Jenin
Intense clashes erupted between Israeli forces and armed Palestinian militants in the Jenin refugee camp located in the occupied West Bank. The Israeli military initiated one of its most extensive operations in the region with drone strikes early on Monday. According to health officials, eight Palestinians have been killed and 80 others injured in the clashes.
Israel claimed to have dealt a severe blow to terrorist organizations, while Palestinians accused the Israeli military of committing a war crime. The operation’s duration remains uncertain, with the Israeli military stating that it could last a few hours or several days.
Jenin has become a stronghold for a new generation of Palestinian militants who are frustrated with the aging leadership of the Palestinian Authority and the constraints imposed by the Israeli occupation. The city has witnessed multiple Israeli military raids over the past year, and local Palestinians have been linked to several shooting attacks targeting Israelis.
In 2002, during the second Palestinian intifada, Israeli forces launched a full-scale incursion in Jenin, resulting in the deaths of at least 52 Palestinian militants and civilians, as well as 23 Israeli soldiers, during ten days of intense fighting.
As the operation continues, hundreds of Israeli soldiers remain present in Jenin, even after 18 hours since its commencement. The refugee camp, which houses around 18,000 people, has been declared a closed Israeli military zone, resonating with the sound of drones flying overhead, gunfire, and explosive thuds. Protests in the area have led to the burning of tires, engulfing the city center with acrid smoke. Despite the tense situation, a few young Palestinians cautiously navigate the streets near closed shops, casting worried glances toward the camp.
The Israeli military has severed telephone communications and cut off electricity supply to the camp, hindering accurate information about the ongoing events. Palestinian medics have also faced challenges in reaching the injured individuals in the area. However, a Palestinian man outside a hospital adjacent to the camp described the situation as a “massacre.” He recounted an encounter with his brother’s friend, who was shot and fell to the ground while they were speaking. The man himself was hit by two bullets before being taken to the hospital in an ambulance. He added that civilians, including children, were being prevented from leaving the camp.
The Israeli military asserts that its actions are based on precise intelligence and denies intentionally harming civilians. Nevertheless, many innocent people have been caught in the crossfire. The initial drone strike targeted an apartment allegedly used as a hideout and joint operational command center for Palestinian militants affiliated with the Jenin Brigades, which consists of various Palestinian militant groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Subsequent drone strikes were carried out, while a sizable contingent of troops was deployed in what the military spokesperson referred to as a “counter-terrorism operation.” The objective of the operation is to seize weapons and dismantle the perceived safe haven mentality in the camp, which has become a breeding ground for violence.
According to the Israeli military, Jenin has been the starting point for approximately 50 shooting attacks targeting Israelis this year alone. Amidst the ongoing gun battles, the Jenin Brigades issued a statement vowing to fight against the Israeli occupation forces.
The Palestinian health ministry reported that eight Palestinians, including three killed in the initial drone strike, have been killed by Israeli forces. The victims appeared to be young men or teenagers, with some identified as belonging to armed groups. The ministry cautioned that the death toll might rise as 17 of the injured individuals were in critical condition. Additionally, another Palestinian was killed during a related protest near the West Bank city of Ramallah due to Israeli fire.
The Israeli military stated that the eight Palestinians killed in Jenin were affiliated with militant groups. During the operation, around 50 militants were apprehended, and a significant quantity of weapons and ammunition was seized.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant declared that the Jenin operation was progressing as planned and highlighted the impressive operational achievements against terror organizations in the region. However, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh in Ramallah strongly criticized the operation, stating that it aimed to completely erase the refugee camp and displace its residents.
Neighboring Jordan condemned the operation as a clear violation of international humanitarian law. Conversely, the United States expressed support for Israel’s security and its right to defend its people against Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other terrorist groups.
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen clarified that the military operation was confined to Jenin and had no plans for expansion. Nevertheless, Palestinian protests have already spread to the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip. The longer the operation persists in Jenin, the higher the risk of a dangerous and wider escalation.
In recent months, there has been a surge of violence in the West Bank. An Israeli raid in Jenin on June 20 resulted in the deaths of seven Palestinians, marking the military’s first use of an attack helicopter in the West Bank in years. The following day, two Hamas gunmen killed four Israelis at a petrol station and restaurant near the settlement of Eli, south of Jenin. Subsequently, hundreds of settlers went on a rampage in the nearby town of Turmusaya, torching homes and cars, leading to the death of a Palestinian man. Additionally, three Palestinian militants from Jenin were killed in an Israeli drone strike after allegedly carrying out a shooting attack at a checkpoint near the city.
Since the beginning of the year, Israeli forces or settlers have killed over 140 Palestinians, comprising militants and civilians, in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Another 36 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip. On the Israeli side, 27 people, including two foreigners, a Palestinian worker, and civilians, have been killed in attacks or incidents involving Palestinians, with only one being an off-duty serving soldier or a member of the Israeli security forces.