Body 'every hour' in deadliest West Bank raid since 2005

11 Nov 2023 03:00pm
A Palestinian worker from the Gaza Strip who had work permit in Israel, walks in the campus of an university in the West Bank city of Jericho where they are temporarily taking shelter on Nov 8. - Photo by AFP
A Palestinian worker from the Gaza Strip who had work permit in Israel, walks in the campus of an university in the West Bank city of Jericho where they are temporarily taking shelter on Nov 8. - Photo by AFP

JENIN - Around four tyre fires belching black smoke, Palestinians clashed with Israeli soldiers in Jenin on Thursday in the deadliest army raid the occupied West Bank has seen since 2005.

The Palestinian city, the site of frequent army raids, was rocked by dozens of explosions as Israeli armoured vehicles tore through the streets, fighting running battles with Palestinian gunmen using assault rifles and pipe bombs.

AFP reporters saw one masked fighter lying bloody on the pavement, as another took his rifle to fire towards Israeli positions.

Another three were seen to be wounded, while AFP counted five bodies in a nearby hospital morgue, where weeping relatives kept vigil over the deceased.

The Palestinian health ministry said 14 were killed in the raid, with the violence continuing until Thursday evening, making it the deadliest single incursion in the West Bank since 2005, according to United Nations records.

Four more were killed elsewhere in the West Bank on Thursday, the health ministry said, putting the toll of Palestinians killed in the West Bank by Israeli fire on in settler attacks since the start of the Israel's colonisation on Oct 7 at more than 180 people. Three Israelis were killed in violence in the West Bank over that period, according to officials.

"This is every day," said a 39-year-old Palestinian computer engineer, who asked to remain anonymous.

"This is our life," he said before fresh gunfire sent panic through a crowd of onlookers who ran down the street.

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Warnings from above

The colonisation in Gaza was triggered when Hamas fighters stormed into Israel in an unprecedented attack that killed more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli authorities.

Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas and has retaliated with an aerial bombing and ground offensive that the health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip says has killed more than 10,800 people, mostly civilians.

The West Bank -- a Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war -- has also been roiled by violence amid increasing raids targeting militants.

The Israeli military said 20 people were detained in Thursday's Jenin raid, including two members of a militant group.

From a hilltop vantage point, the crackle of gunfire echoed off high-rise buildings, amid smoke and sirens.

Fresh explosions occurred every five minutes at the peak of the fighting mid-afternoon, as an Israeli drone circled over the city.

A local told AFP leaflets were airdropped in the morning over Jenin refugee camp -- home to some 23,000 people, according to the United Nations -- warning them to avoid militant factions.

In the afternoon, more pamphlets were scattered from above, as locals said fighting had left children trapped in their schools.

"We feel even more bad than what you would assume," said a 42-year-old dentist, after gesturing in the direction of Israeli troops and drawing a finger across his throat.

"They say in Gaza the problem is Hamas. The problem is not Hamas, the problem is the occupation."

'Our land'

On the streets, Israeli troops faced off with fighters hiding behind cover.

Dozens of spectators milled in side streets, surging forward to help the wounded and direct ambulances.

Two men in balaclavas stalked through the crowd, one carrying a gun.

The Iran-backed group, which is also active in Gaza, is blacklisted as a "terrorist organisation" by the European Union and the United States.

Nearby, a pickup truck waited to carry away the dead and wounded.

"They shoot indiscriminately, in a barbaric way," said 35-year-old paramedic Muhammad al-Ahmad. "Every hour we have a body."

At a local morgue, the pale faces of young men were stained with blood. The dead body of 45-year-old Muhammad Aqel's nephew lay in an adjacent prayer room.

"What keeps us strong is our steadfastness and God. This land is our land," said Aqel. - AFP