Israel attacks Jenin refugee camp, nine Palestinians killed amid escalating violence

04 Jul 2023 12:00am
Israel has stepped up operations in the northern West Bank, home to Jenin city and its adjacent refugee camp, a stronghold of Palestinian armed groups where there has been a spate of attacks on Israelis as well as attacks by Jewish settlers on Palestinian communities - AFP
Israel has stepped up operations in the northern West Bank, home to Jenin city and its adjacent refugee camp, a stronghold of Palestinian armed groups where there has been a spate of attacks on Israelis as well as attacks by Jewish settlers on Palestinian communities - AFP

JENIN Palestine - A refugee camp in Jenin in the northern side of the occupied West Bank has been attacked by Israeli military air raids, it was reported that this was part of a large scale ongoing attack which involved a missile and killed at least eight Palestinians, according to eye-witnesses and officials.

21-year-old Mohammad Hasanein, was killed on Monday by the Israeli army at the city of Ramallah bringing the death toll to nine, the health ministry reported.

At least two dozen other Palestinians were injured in the camp, including many who remain in critical condition. According to residents, at least 10 attacks were launched and directed towards Jenin on Monday night with smoke billowing for the wreckage of buildings.

Armoured Israeli vehicles also cornered the camp and attacked using ground military, causing damage to roads and homes. Amid escalating violence in the West Bank, Monday's attacks, which include the the first Israeli drone assault in the area since 2006,has seen increasing military raids on Jenin and northern occupied Palestinian territories and settler attacks in Palestinian villages.

Israeli military released a statement saying that it was conducting a “joint operations centre”, which served as a command centre for the Jenin Brigades, a unit comprised of fighters from different Palestinian armed groups. It further elaborated in the statement that the site supposedly functioned as “advanced observation and reconnaissance centre” and a weapons and explosives site as well as a coordination and communications hub for Palestinian fighters.

An aerial photograph was provided showing the target site which indicated that the building hit was located near two schools and a medical centre. Al Jazeera reported that the Israeli military also annouced the arrest of several “wanted Palestinians and the seizure of explosive devices”.

“Those are the homemade Palestinian explosives that wounded eight Israeli soldiers during last month’s Israeli raid on the Jenin refugee camp. This was something that caught the Israeli forces by surprise and led to the use of choppers to drop missiles on Palestinians.

This is the first incident of its kind that we’ve seen in the refugee camp and in the occupied West Bank in roughly 20 years,” Neha Ibrahim of Al Jazeera reported. The army has continued to enforce a siege on the camp as of Monday morning sealing off entrances with tractors.

According to Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem bureau chief Walid al-Omari said some 150 armoured vehicles and about 1,000 soldiers from elite special forces and the military, as well as general intelligence, police and border police” were taking part in the operation.“

Walid elaborated that Israeli forces were enforcing a total siege on the camp, operating inside it, raiding and searching homes and arresting many people. Afiyeh Jameel Yousef Sbeih, a 60-year-old resident of the Jenin refugee camp, told Al Jazeera that the Israeli army fired live ammunition into their home, injuring her niece.

Her niece, 25-year-old Hanaa Najeeb, who is studying to be a doctor, had just arrived for a visit from Jordan two days ago with her mother and were staying at Sbeih’s home.

“A bullet entered through the front door and hit my niece in the leg while she was in the bathroom. The bullet pierced her leg and went out from the other side,” Sbeih told Al Jazeera from the Ibn Sina hospital.

“We found at least three bullets on our front door, and others across the walls,” added Sbeih about their home in the Hawashiyeh neighbourhood of the Jenin refugee camp.

Jenin’s deputy governor Kamal Abu al-Rub said the raids seem like a collective punishment for all the residents of Jenin, and that the Israeli military were not only targetting people but the infrastructure of the camp. "They have cut off all electricity, telecommunications and water” Abu al-Rub said describing Israel’s actions inside the camp as “terrorism”.

In a statement on Monday morning, the Palestinian Authority’s foreign ministry said it “condemns in the strongest terms the barbaric aggression of the occupation against our people in Jenin and its camp”, and held the Israeli government responsible.

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It is noted that the Israeli aggression targeted “defenceless civilians, including targeting ambulances, crews, and health centres, depriving them of treating the wounded, targeting mosques and homes, and destroying infrastructure”.

The ministry said it “calls for urgent international and American intervention to stop the aggression immediately, and calls on the International Criminal Court to break its silence and start holding the Israeli war criminals accountable”.

Meanwhile The Palestinian Red Crescent Society urgently called for a “safe passage to evacuate the wounded and injured”.

“We are coordinating with the Red Cross and international organisations to force Israel to open a safe passage. The number of wounded and injuries is on the rise,” the organisation said in a statement on Monday.

four people killed in Jenin have been identified as Sameeh Abu al-Wafa, Hussam Abu Theeba, Aws al-Hanoun and Nour el-Din Marshoud, noting that they were all shot in the chest and head.

Sounds of explosives and drones continue to be heard across Jenin on Monday morning with thick black smoke from burning tyres set alight by residents swirled through the streets and calls to support the fighters rang out from loudspeakers in mosques.

A Palestinian ambulance driver, Khaled -al-Ahmad told the Reuters news agency that “what is going on in the [Jenin] refugee camp is real war”.

“There were strikes from the sky targeting the camp, every time we drive in around five to seven ambulances and we come back full with injured people,” said al-Ahmad.

Mahmoud al-Saadi, the director of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society in Jenin, told the AFP that “There is bombing from the air and an invasion from the ground,”

The Jenin Brigades said it was engaging with the Israeli forces, while the Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad armed group said in a statement that “all options are open to strike the enemy [Israel] in response to its aggression in Jenin”.

At least three Palestinians were killed in the Israeli drone attack on June 21, while seven were killed and more than 100 wounded in a raid that involved helicopter gunships over Jenin on June 19.

Palestinian gunmen also killed four Israeli settlers on June 20, while at least one Palestinian man was shot dead the next day as Israeli settlers stormed the village of Turmus Ayya and set fire to dozens of cars and homes.

The recent unrest has prompted global concern, with the United Nations human rights chief condemning Israel’s use of heavy weaponry, including drones and helicopter gunships, in the West Bank, which it has occupied since 1967.

Volker Turk has called the Israeli attacks a “major intensification of the use of weaponry more generally associated with the conduct of armed hostilities, rather than a law enforcement situation”.

“Israel must urgently reset its policies and actions in the West Bank in line with international human rights standards, including protecting and respecting the right to life,” he added.

According to a tally compiled by official sources and reported by AFP at least 185 Palestinians, 25 Israelis, a Ukrainian and an Italian have been killed.