JENIN, West Financial institution (AP) — Israel struck targets in a militant stronghold within the occupied West Financial institution with drones early Monday and deployed a whole lot of troops within the space, in an incursion that resembled the wide-scale navy operations carried out in the course of the second Palestinian rebellion 20 years in the past. Palestinian well being officers mentioned a minimum of eight Palestinians have been killed and dozens wounded.
Troops remained contained in the Jenin refugee camp at noon Monday, pushing forward with the biggest operation within the space throughout greater than a 12 months of preventing. It got here at a time of rising home stress for a troublesome response to a collection of assaults on Israeli settlers, together with a capturing assault final month that killed 4 Israelis.
Black smoke rose from the crowded streets of the camp, exchanges of fireside rang out and the buzzing of drones may very well be heard overhead because the navy pressed on. Residents mentioned electrical energy was minimize off in some components and navy bulldozers plowed by means of slim streets, damaging buildings as they cleared the best way for Israeli forces.
The Palestinians and neighboring Jordan and Egypt and the 57-nation Group of Islamic Cooperation condemned the violence. In a harshly worded assertion, the United Arab Emirates, which established diplomatic relations with Israel in 2020, “strongly condemned the assaults by the Israeli occupation forces.”
Israeli Protection Minister Yoav Gallant mentioned the operation was “continuing as deliberate,” however gave no indication when the incursion would finish. Combating was persevering with at midafternoon, some 14 hours after Israel entered the camp.
Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, a military spokesman, mentioned a brigade-size power — roughly 2,000 troopers — was collaborating within the operation, and that navy drones had carried out a collection of strikes to clear the best way for the bottom forces.
Though Israel has carried out remoted airstrikes within the West Financial institution in current weeks, Hecht mentioned Monday’s collection of strikes was an escalation unseen since 2006 — the top of the Palestinian rebellion.
Smoke billowed from inside the crowded camp, with mosque minarets within the backdrop. Ambulances raced towards a hospital the place the wounded have been introduced in on stretchers.
Lynn Hastings, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator within the Palestinian areas, mentioned on Twitter that she was “alarmed by scale of Israeli forces operation,” noting the airstrikes in a densely populated refugee camp. She mentioned the U.N. was mobilizing humanitarian assist.
In keeping with the official Palestinian information company Wafa, the navy blocked roads inside the camp, took over homes and buildings and arrange snipers on rooftops. The ways signaled the operation may drag on for a while.
“There are bulldozers destroying the streets, snipers are inside and on roofs of homes, drones are hitting homes and Palestinians are killed within the streets,” mentioned Jamal Huweil, a political activist within the camp, predicting the operation would fail.
“They will destroy the refugee camp however will fail once more as a result of the one resolution is the political resolution wherein a Palestinian state is established and the occupation ends,” he mentioned.
The Palestinian Well being Ministry mentioned a minimum of eight Palestinians have been killed and 50 individuals have been wounded — 10 critically. The useless have been recognized as younger males and Palestinian youths, together with a 16-year-old boy and two 17-year-olds.
In a separate incident, a 21-year-old Palestinian was killed by Israeli hearth close to the West Financial institution metropolis of Ramallah, the ministry mentioned.
“Our Palestinian individuals won’t kneel, won’t give up, won’t increase the white flag, and can stay steadfast on their land within the face of this brutal aggression,” mentioned Palestinian presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh.
On Monday afternoon, the Israeli military mentioned it had uncovered three weapons-making services and confiscated a whole lot of explosives. It additionally mentioned it had shot two Palestinian gunmen throughout shootouts.
The Jenin camp and an adjoining city of the identical identify have been a flashpoint as Israeli-Palestinian violence escalated since spring 2022.
Israel’s overseas minister, Eli Cohen, accused archenemy Iran of being behind the violence by funding Palestinian militant teams.
“Because of the funds they obtain from Iran, the Jenin camp has turn into a middle for terrorist exercise,” he advised overseas journalists, including that the operation can be carried out in a “focused method” to keep away from civilian casualties.
Palestinians reject such claims, saying the violence is a pure response to 56 years of occupation since Israel captured the West Financial institution within the 1967 Mideast warfare.
Jenin has lengthy been a bastion for armed wrestle in opposition to Israel and was a serious friction level within the final Palestinian rebellion.
In 2002, days after a Palestinian suicide bombing throughout a big Passover gathering killed 30 individuals, Israeli troops launched a large operation within the Jenin camp. For eight days and nights they fought militants avenue by avenue, utilizing armored bulldozers to destroy rows of houses, a lot of which had been booby-trapped.
Monday’s raid got here two weeks after one other violent confrontation in Jenin and after the navy mentioned a pair of rockets have been fired from the realm final week. The rockets exploded shortly after launch, inflicting no injury in Israel, however marked an escalation that has raised issues in Israel.
However there additionally could have been political issues at play. Main members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right authorities, which is dominated by West Financial institution settlers and their supporters, have been calling for a broader navy response to the continuing violence within the space.
“Happy with our heroes on all fronts and this morning particularly of our troopers working in Jenin,” tweeted Nationwide Safety Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, an ultranationalist who not too long ago known as for Israel to kill “hundreds” of militants if vital. “Praying for his or her success.”
Israeli navy consultants mentioned they anticipated the operation to wrap up shortly — inside hours or a day or two. Extended violence and heavy casualties would danger attracting elevated worldwide criticism and drawing militants from the Gaza Strip and even Lebanon into the preventing.
“From the Israeli perspective, the intent and curiosity are to finish this very restricted operation ASAP and to verify it doesn’t turn into a regional occasion,” mentioned Giora Eiland, a retired Israeli basic and former nationwide safety adviser.
Islamic Jihad, a militant group with a big presence in Jenin, threatened to launch assaults from its Gaza Strip stronghold if the preventing dragged on.
“If the Israeli aggression in opposition to Jenin doesn’t cease, the Palestinian resistance will do what it has to do in a short while,” mentioned Dawood Shehab, a spokesman for the group.
Greater than 130 Palestinians have been killed this 12 months within the West Financial institution, a part of greater than a yearlong spike in violence that has seen a few of the worst bloodshed within the space in practically 20 years.
The outburst of violence escalated final 12 months after a spate of Palestinian assaults prompted Israel to step up its raids within the West Financial institution.
Israel says the raids are supposed to beat again militants. The Palestinians say such violence is inevitable within the absence of any political course of with Israel and elevated West Financial institution settlement building and violence by extremist settlers.
Israel says most of these killed have been militants, however stone-throwing youths protesting the incursions and folks uninvolved in confrontations have additionally been killed.
Palestinian assaults in opposition to Israelis because the begin of this 12 months have killed 24 individuals.
Israel captured the West Financial institution, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip within the 1967 Mideast warfare. The Palestinians search these territories for his or her hoped-for unbiased state.
Federman reported from Jerusalem. Related Press author Julia Frankel in Jerusalem and Omar Akour in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this report.