9 Palestinians Killed in Israel’s Biggest Military Strike on Jenin Refugee Camp in 20 Years
Image: Wafa News
At least 9 Palestinians, including children, were killed and around 50 injured as Israel launched the biggest military strike as part of Operation Breakwater at West Bank’s Jenin refugee camp on Monday since the 2002 Battle of Jenin during the Second Intifada, when more than 50 Palestinians and 23 Israeli soldiers were killed in one week.
The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) launched, at least, 10 drone strikes and helicopter attacks as more than 100 armoured vehicles and a Brigade of 1,000-2,000 soldiers entered the city with snipers on rooftops. They encountered fire from masked members of Jenin Brigades, founded by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
The camp, set up in on the outskirts of West Bank in the 1950s and home to about 11,000 people, is viewed by Israel as a hotbed of terrorism. Jenin and nearby Nablus have often been targeted as part of the now-more-than-year-old operation, involving night raids.
“Some 150 armoured vehicles and about 1,000 soldiers from elite special forces and the military as well as general intelligence, the police and border police” are part of the operation, Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem bureau chief Walid al-Omari reported.
Eight Palestinians were killed in the raid and a ninth named Mohammad Hasanein (21) was killed overnight by the Israeli Army at the northern entrance to Ramallah, West Bank, the health ministry. “Amongst the martyrs, there are children and young kids,” Mohammed Kamanji, a lawyer and human rights researcher from Jenin, told Al Jazeera.
The massive attacks destroyed destroying infrastructure, houses and roads in the densely populated area with smoke billowing.
“A massive number of Israeli occupation forces are storming the city and the camp. Air strikes are ongoing until now. The military machine, armed vehicles of the Israeli forces and bulldozers are everywhere. They are now destroying everything—the properties of the citizens, the infrastructure, and the roads inside the camp,” Kamanji added.
According to Al Jazeera’s Nida Ibrahim, the Israeli military also arrested several “wanted Palestinians and seized explosive devices”.
So far, 133 Palestinians, including those dead on Monday, have been killed in the West Bank this year in more than a year-long spike in violence.
The operations was launched following growing pressure on the Benjamin Netanyahu government to respond to a series of attacks on settlers, including a shooting that killed four people last week.
Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant said forces were “closely monitoring the conduct of our enemies. The defence establishment is ready for all scenarios”.
Israeli foreign minister Eli Cohen said that Israel is striking the “terrorism hub” operating at the Jenin camp.
“I want to emphasise we don’t have a fight with Palestinians. Our fight is with Iran’s proxies, mainly Hamas and Islamic Jihad,” he said accusing Tehran of trying to escalate tensions in the region, CNN reported.
IDF spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hecht told reporters that several armed “terrorist suspects” were killed. “We’re not trying to hold the ground. We’re acting against specific targets.”
In a Telegram post, the IDF termed the assault an “extensive counterterrorism effort in the area of the city of Jenin and the Jenin Camp,” and a strike on “terrorist infrastructure”.
The IDF claimed to have struck a Jenin Brigades’ joint operational command centre and its operatives.
“The operational command centre also served as an advanced observation and reconnaissance centre, a place where armed terrorists would gather before and after terrorist activities,” the IDF said. The camp was a “site for weapons and explosives” and a “hub for coordination and communication among the terrorists”.
The IDF also claimed to have targeted a weapons production and explosive device storage facility and confiscated an “improvised rocket launcher” and additional weapons.
In the last two years, the refugee camp has been repeatedly attacked by Israel as a new generation of militants with individual affiliations to Hamas, Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine formed the Jenin Brigades and mounted a new challenge. As young Palestinians are increasingly taking up arms, Israel frequently attacks the camp.
The Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad said in a statement: “The resistance will confront the enemy and defend the Palestinian people and all options are open to strike the enemy and respond to its aggression on Jenin.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack as “a new war crime”.
“Security and stability will not be achieved in the region unless our Palestinian people feel it. What the Israeli occupation government is doing in the city of Jenin and its camp is a new war crime against our defenceless people,” he said, according to presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh.
Qatar slammed the “horrific crimes” against Palestinians and warned of the “fading opportunities for peace and the widening of the cycle of violence due to the continuous Israeli escalation in the occupied Palestinian territory”.
Jordan’s foreign ministry spokesman Sinan al-Majali said that it “constitutes a violation of international humanitarian law and obligations of the [Israeli] occupation”. He appealed to the international community to stop the Israeli assault and protect Palestinians in the occupied territory.
Egypt said that the ongoing Israeli attacks “lead to fuelling of tensions, exacerbate the suffering of Palestinian people and undermined efforts exerted to ease tension in the occupied territories”. It requested the international community “to intervene to put an end to these violations and to provide protection for the Palestinian people, whose suffering is increasing day by day”.
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