Jenin: an elderly woman reacts as she stands by rubble and debris in an alley in the occupied West Bank, on Wednesday.—AFP
Jenin: an elderly woman reacts as she stands by rubble and debris in an alley in the occupied West Bank, on Wednesday.—AFP

• Jenin assesses broken walls, crushed cars
• At least 12 Palestinians killed, 100 wounded in incursion

JENIN: Palestinian fighters paraded in Jenin on Wednesday and angry crowds confronted senior Palestinian Authority officials, accusing them of weakness, after one of the largest Israeli military operations in the occupied West Bank in years.

The two-day operation, which the Israeli military claimed targeted infrastructure and weapons depots of militant factions in the Jenin refugee camp, left a trail of wrecked streets and burned-out cars and sparked fury across the Arab world.

At least 12 Palestinians were killed and around 100 wounded in an incursion that began with late-night drone strikes, followed by a sweep involving more than 1,000 Israeli troops. One Israeli soldier was killed.

“We stayed inside the house, but then they cut off the electricity then the water,” said Mohammad Mansour, a resident of the camp where armoured bulldozers tore up streets to expose roadside bombs, cutting power cables and water pipes.

“We ended up running out of bread and supplies … I’ve never been through such days.”

At a funeral for 10 of the dead, thousands of mourners, including dozens of gunmen, confronted three senior Palestinian Authority leaders, chanting “Get out! Get out!”

They forced them to leave under protection of guards who used tear gas to push back the crowds.

The Authority, which exercises nominal governance over parts of the West Bank, protested against the Israeli operation, which it called a war crime, but was unable to do anything to halt it.

Residents defiant

Following the withdrawal of the Israeli force on Tuesday evening, leaders of Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad and other factions claimed victory, and the mood among residents returning home to the camp appeared defiant.

“They did not get what they wanted, thank God. The youths are fine, the families are fine, and the camp is fine,” Mutasem Estatia, a father of six, said after what he described as two nights being kept away, one of them in Israeli detention.

“There are 12 martyrs and we are proud of them, but we expected more damage.”

Israeli forces detained 150 suspected militants, seized large caches of money, guns and roadside mines — including an arsenal under a mosque — and destroyed a command centre, the army said. Islamic Jihad claimed eight as members, with Hamas claiming another.

As the troops withdrew overnight, Israel reported a volley of rockets from the Gaza Strip, another Palestinian territory, which is run by Hamas. The rockets were shot down and Israel’s air force struck targets in Gaza, causing no casualties.

In a further sign of violence spilling over from Jenin, an allegedly Palestinian rammed his car into pedestrians in Tel Aviv and went on a stabbing spree, wounding eight people before he was shot dead. Hamas claimed him as a member.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Tuesday the Jenin operation was unlikely to be a “one-off” and said it would be “the beginning of regular incursions and continuous control of the territory”.

In turn, the spokesman for the Al Quds Brigades, said “every alley and street will soon turn into clashes and fighting fields.”

‘Things we faced 20 years ago’

The scale of the Israeli operation, one of the biggest in 20 years, pointed to the growing strength of groups in Jenin, where Israel estimates almost half the population is affiliated with Islamic Jihad or Hamas.

“War rooms, explosive devices, planting powerful but primitive mines based on solar water heaters or similar objects — these are things we faced 20 years ago in Gaza,” Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant claimed, a former army general.“

In Jenin, footage circulating on social media showed hundreds throwing rocks at the wall of the Palestinian Authority (PA) governor in the early hours of the morning.

PA officials in turn say Israel makes it impossible to exert control by deliberately undermining their authority and blocking any attempt to create the basis for a future Palestinian state in the West Bank, which Israel seized after the 1967 Middle East war.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2023

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