The Israeli army attacked Jenin city with drones in their most extensive West Bank military operation in 20 years as the forces killed at least 8 Palestinians. Sounds of explosions and gunfire were heard throughout the city as the Israeli troops clashed with the Jenin Brigades, a unit made up of the city’s crowded refugee base camps.
At least six drones were found to be circling over the city and camps near it, an overly populated area housing almost 14,000 refugees in less than half a square kilometer area. A Palestinian ambulance driver said, “There were strikes from the sky targeting the camp, every time we drive in, around five to seven ambulances and we come back full of injured,” and described the situation as ‘real war’.
The camp has been at the centre of a rise in violence across the West Bank that has alarmed governments from Washington to the Arab world more and more but hasn’t yet paved the path for the restart of political talks that have been on hold for almost ten years. In addition to a string of violent attacks by Palestinians against Israelis and rampages by Jewish settler mobs against Palestinian villages, army raids in cities like Jenin have become commonplace for more than a year.
According to the Israeli military, its forces used “precise” drone attacks with small payloads to target a structure that housed a Jenin Brigades fighters’ command centre. The mission, according to the report, was to demolish infrastructure and prevent extremists from utilizing the refugee camp as a base by carrying out a significant counterterrorism operation. The Jenin municipality reported that while the operation went on, Israeli armored bulldozers dug up roads in the camp to uncover hidden IEDs, cutting off water and electricity supplies as residents described soldiers smashing through the walls to move from house to house.
A military spokesman said that the growing scale of violence forced the military to carry out drone strikes for the first time in the West Bank after 2006. He added, “It could take hours, but it could also take days. We are focused on our goals.”
Meanwhile, Palestine’s President Mahmoud Abbas has said that he will be suspending contacts with Israel and called for “international protection for our people”. Assuring de-escalation and humanitarian access, UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland stated that he was in communication with all sides.
The camp, which was established 70 years ago to shelter refugees in the wake of the 1948 Palestine war, is now home to hundreds of fighters from terrorist organisations including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah. The combatants have a wide variety of weaponry and an expanding collection of explosives.
The Israeli military, which frequently accuses terrorist organisations of stationing militants in civilian areas, claimed that troops captured an improvised rocket launcher and destroyed a factory that produced weapons and stored explosives, along with radios and other equipment.