Israelis ‘Clean House’ in Jenin, for Now, Leaving Palestinians Furious at Israel, PA
Large-scale military operation in Jenin by over 1,000 Israeli troops ends with 14 dead, including 13 Palestinians and 1 Israeli soldier, amid extensive destruction in the refugee camp
By Mohammad Al-Kassim/The Media Line
Israel’s massive military operation in the northern West Bank targeting Palestinian factions in the Jenin refugee camp ended with both sides declaring victory.
For 48 hours, Israeli drones, helicopters, bulldozers, and more than 1,000 troops swarmed the camp, trying to kill or arrest Palestinian fighters.
On Wednesday, Palestinians assessed the damage. The two days of violence caused considerable destruction.
“Very hard work and more dangerous than you can imagine. The conditions inside the camp are total destruction and devastation in the streets, buildings, and cars. Not the camp we knew,” Khaled Al-Ahmad, a Palestinian Red Crescent paramedic, told The Media Line.
Israeli soldiers killed 13 Palestinians and wounded over 100 in the fighting, according to the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry. The Israeli military says one of its soldiers wasalso killed in one of the most significant West Bank military assaults in over 20 years.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the operation would end when it had achieved its goals. The army, he said, would return if needed.
“At these moments, we are completing the mission. I can say that our extensive operation in Jenin is not a one-off,” Netanyahu said during a visit to a military post on the outskirts of Jenin. “We will eradicate terrorism wherever we see it, and we will strike at it.”
In an emergency meeting Monday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas suspended contacts with Israel, including security coordination.
Palestinian officials estimated that 80% of the camp was destroyed by the raid.
Thousands participated in the funeral of those killed during the military offensive and denounced the Israeli assault. Mourners chanted their support for the armed Palestinian factions, and their rage toward Israel was clear.
The funeral processions saw a wave of fury directed also against the Palestinian Authority and its security services. Many of the mourners objected to the participation of top PA officials such as Mahmoud Al-Aloul, Sabri Saidam and Azzam Al-Ahmad in the funeral. Al-Aloul, Fatah’s deputy chairman, was prevented from delivering a speech as angry people shouted “Out, out!” and forced the officials to leave.
Angry demonstrators gathered in front of the Jenin Governorate headquarters and threw stones at the building, while Palestinian security forces fired tear gas canisters. According to local sources, Palestinian security personnel arrested one of the demonstrators.
Palestinians say the Israeli raid failed to achieve its goals. Many Jenin-based fighters, they say, were able to evade capture.
“The only thing Israel achieved is a huge destruction of the refugee camp and its infrastructure [including] the water supply, electricity supply, and sewage system. They caused a lot of destruction … [to] houses inside Jenin city. They forced people from their homes. If they consider these as achievements,” Mustafa Barghouti, secretary general of the Palestinian Initiative Party, told The Media Line. “I think these are not achievements. They are signs of the Israeli army’s criminal behavior.”
The Jenin camp has been a hotbed of what Palestinians call resistance fighters and what Israel calls terrorists.
In Tel Aviv on Tuesday, Israeli police say a car, driven by a Palestinian from the West Bank, rammed pedestrians before the driver got out and began stabbing passersby. The driver injured seven people before a civilian shot him dead.
Former Israeli intelligence officer Lt. Col. (res.) Sarit Zehavi told The Media Line Israel had no choice.
“In the past year and a half, we have faced terror from Jenin again, and again, and again. When the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] entered the camp a few weeks ago to find the terrorists that are killing Israelis, they found that Jenin had become a kind of Lebanon,”Zehavi said.
Southern Lebanon served as a base for Palestinian fighters in the late 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s. Since the 1980s, moreover, Lebanon has been home to the Islamist militia Hizbullah.
A much smaller force of Israeli troops entered Jenin on June 19, intending to arrest Palestinian suspects. In a gun battle, Israeli soldiers killed seven Palestinians and wounded dozens, but Palestinian gunmen managed to detonate a bomb under an Israeli armored vehicle, wounding eight troopers.
The ferocity of that response took aback the Israeli army, which may have helped prompt Monday’s much more substantial assault.
Lt. Col. (res.) Yaron Buskila, a former Israeli military commander and the director of operations at the Israel Defense and Security Forum, alleges that weapons in the possession of the PA security forces have found their way to armed factions in the Jenin camp.
“Much of the weapons are actually coming from the PA itself,” he says. “And from Jordan—smuggling a lot of weapons through the Jordanian border into Israel, and then into the hands of the terrorists.”
Buskila says another source of weapons is the Arab Israeli community, which has over the past few years suffered from a sharp uptick in violent, and often organized crime.
He told The Media Line the goal of the operation was to “reduce their ability to attack Israel.”
While weapons are clearly brought into the camp from multiple sources, observers say a thriving cottage industry in the camp produces simple, improvised, home-made weapons, like the infamous Carlo submachine gun.
The US offered unwavering support for Israel’s operation in Jenin, saying in a White House statement that Israel has a right to self-defense.
“We support Israel’s security and right to defend its people against Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other terrorist groups,” the White House National Security Council said in a brief statement on Monday.
That US statement drew an angry response from Palestinians.
Barghouti said Washington’s stand was not conducive to bringing peace and stability.
“The US position is strange and unacceptable. To say that the Israelis have the right to defend themselves without saying that the Palestinians have the right to defend themselves from their occupier, given that Israel is the one occupying the Palestinians, is very strange.”
The densely populated Jenin camp, around a sixth of a square mile in size, houses some 17,000 refugees.
More than 3,000 of these fled the intense fighting over the last two days. Among these was a mother of four, who told The Media Line that the situation inside the camp had been unbearable.
“We were terrified. We had no electricity, no water, and no supplies. There was shooting near us between the Israeli army and the resistance fighters.”
Khadra Awadin, another camp resident, told The Media Line that she fled the violence in the middle of the night with her two physically disabled sisters.
“I went out at night on foot. A very difficult journey. I have two sisters who are handicapped. I called the ambulance, but it could not reach us because the bombing was in our neighborhood and near my house. The windows shattered. The bombing targeted everyone and was indiscriminate, not only on the resistance fighters.”
Awadin sought refuge at a nearby hotel owned by Majd al-Saadi, who put up many fleeing families in his 80-room hotel. He told The Media Line they are his “guests” who can stay for as long as they need to.
“The sight of the people when they left the camp, especially the women and children, running away from bulldozers and occupation soldiers, was a more difficult sight than in 2002,” when a large force of Israeli soldiers previously attacked the camp, al-Saadi said.
“The least we can do for our family and loved ones is to receive them in the hotel.” And “if there is no place [in the hotel], then our homes are open,” he said.
Israel has withdrawn its forces from Jenin for now. Refugee camp residents have started rebuilding, but the situation remains fragile. Many say another round of violence could erupt anytime.
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