Nine Palestinians killed in large-scale Israeli incursion in West Bank

The Israeli army killed nine Palestinians and wounded 80 on Monday in Jenin, in the occupied West Bank, during a “broad counter-terrorism operation” that included drone strikes.

Israeli forces claimed that the objective was to attack a “terrorist infrastructure” and a “joint operations center” which they said serves as a command point for the “Jenin Brigade”, a local militant group.

Some 3,000 Palestinians have left the Jenin refugee camp after the Israeli operation in the northern occupied West Bank, a Palestinian official announced.

“Some 3,000 people have already left the camp,” Jenin’s deputy governor Kamal Abu al-Rub told AFP, adding that measures were taken to receive them in schools and other places in the city.

In another statement released Monday, the army said firing was continuing in the camp. Palestinian refugee contiguous to the city of Jeninin the north of the West Bank, territory occupied by Israel since 1967.

The Israeli forces attacked a plant for the production of weapons and storage of explosive devices, the armed body said.

Nine Palestinians were killed and 100 wounded, 20 of them seriously, in this Israeli operation, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Relations accused the Israeli army of having launched “an open war against the population in Jenin”.

In another incident, “a man was killed by occupation (Israeli) gunfire at the northern entrance to Al Bireh, near Ramallah,” it added.

According to an army statement, a “soldier was slightly injured by shell splinters from the (Israeli) army in the operation” in Jenin.

“By surprise”

“We are attacking this center of terrorism (in Jenin) with great force,” Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen told reporters in Jerusalem.

The head of Defense, Yoav Gallant, declared for his part that a “proactive strategy” was being adopted against terrorism.

“People knew we were probably going to go in, but the method of the air strike caught them by surprise,” said Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, an army spokesman.

The army targets “specific targets.” “The aerial platforms were UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles),” he said.

The city of Jenin and the adjoining refugee camp are areas of frequent clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants.

The Israeli army regularly carries out incursions into the sector, which is theoretically under the command of Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas.

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“Worst raid in five years”

“There are shelling and a land invasion,” Mahmud al-Saadi, director of the Palestinian Red Crescent in Jenin, told AFP.

“Several houses and places were bombed (…) There is smoke coming out everywhere,” he added.

A resident of the city, Badr Shagul, said that he saw “bulldozers in the field that destroyed houses”. The situation is “catastrophic,” added Mahmud Hawashin, a resident of the Jenin camp.

At the city hospital, an AFP journalist saw bodies in the morgue and relatives waiting for the fighting to end so they could hold funerals.

“We received many wounded by explosives (…), also many wounded by bullets,” said Qasem Benighade, a 35-year-old nurse. “It’s the worst raid in five years,” he said.

Ismael Haniyeh, head of the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement, called the Israeli attack “brutal.” Palestinian Islamic Jihad stated that “all options are open to attack the enemy (Israel) in response to its aggression in Jenin.”

Jordan denounced “the recent aggression against the city of Jenin” and launched “an urgent call to the international community to (…) put an end to the Israeli attacks on the occupied Palestinian territories,” according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Arab League, for its part, called an emergency meeting for Tuesday.

The United States claimed on Monday that Israel had the right to “defend its population” from Islamist militants, but called for the protection of civilians following the Israeli army’s operation.

“We support Israel’s security and its right to defend its people against Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups,” a State Department spokesman said.

Seven people died in June in an army intervention in the Jenin refugee camp.

In that raid, the army also fired missiles from a helicopter, which had not happened in the West Bank since 2002, during the second Palestinian intifada, according to a Palestinian official.

Violence has escalated in the past month and at least 185 Palestinians, 25 Israelis, one Ukrainian and one Italian have been killed since the start of the year, according to an AFP tally based on official sources.

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