Israel launches major military operation in West Bank with at least three Palestinians killed in drone strikes as hundreds of troops march into Jenin
- At least three people were killed in the drone strikes with another 13 injured
- Incursion resembles major operation carried out in second Palestinian uprising
Israel launched what appears to be a major military operation in the West bank early Monday, deploying hundreds of troops into Palestinian territory and conducting drone strikes on what it said were militant strongholds in and around Jenin.
The incursion, which resembles the wide-scale deployments carried out during the second Palestinian uprising two decades ago, has ratcheted up tensions even further after more than a year of back and forth attacks.
Palestinian health officials said at least three Palestinians were killed in the drone strikes, with Palestinian media reports suggesting the Israeli military operation cut off electricity for many residents.
In a separate incident, a 21-year-old Palestinian was killed by Israeli fire near the West Bank city of Ramallah, the ministry said.
It comes at a time of growing domestic pressure in Israel for a tough response to a series of attacks on Israeli settlers – including a shooting attack last week that killed four people.
Smoke billows from houses inside a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin on July 3, 2023, after an Israeli strike
A person is transported on a stretcher after a Palestinian was killed during an Israeli military operation, in Jenin, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank July 3, 2023
View of tyres set on fire on a street after a Palestinian was killed during an Israeli military operation, in Jenin, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank July 3, 2023
Paramedics rush an injured man into a hospital in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin on July 3, 2023, after an Israeli strike. The Israeli army said July 3, 2023 it was striking targets in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin in an ‘extensive counterterrorism effort’ that the Palestinian health ministry said had killed at least three people
Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, an army spokesman, said the operation began just after 1 a.m. with an airstrike on a building used by militants for planning attacks. He said the goal of the operation was to destroy and confiscate weapons.
‘We’re not planning to hold ground,’ he said. ‘We’re acting against specific targets.’
He said that a brigade-size force – roughly 2,000 soldiers – was taking part in the operation, and that military drones had carried out a series of strikes to clear the way for the ground forces.
Although Israel has carried out isolated airstrikes in the West Bank in recent weeks, Hecht said Monday’s series of strikes marked an escalation unseen since 2006 – the end of the Palestinian uprising.
While Israel described the attack as a pinpoint operation, videos on Palestinian social media showed a large tuft of white smoke billowing from a crowded area, with a mosque minaret nearby. Other videos showed a wounded man was brought into a hospital on a stretcher, while another was carried in by a group of men.
According to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa, the military blocked roads within the camp, took over houses and buildings and set up snipers on rooftops. The agency also said the military cut off electricity in large areas of the camp and that army bulldozers caused damage to property.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said at least three Palestinians were killed and 13 injured early Monday, three of them critically. Hecht said as many as seven militants were believed dead.
Israeli military vehicles manoeuver during a raid in Jenin, the West Bank, 03 July 2023
Smoke billows from houses inside a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin on July 3, 2023, after an Israeli strike. The Israeli army said July 3, 2023 it was striking targets in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin
Smoke rises during an Israeli military operation, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank July 3, 2023
Jenin has been a flashpoint as Israeli-Palestinian violence escalated since the spring of 2022. Monday’s raid came two weeks after another violent confrontation in Jenin.
‘There has been a dynamic here around Jenin for the last year,’ Hecht said, defending Monday’s tactics. ‘It’s been intensifying all the time.’
But there also may have been political considerations at play. Leading members of Israel’s far-right government, which is dominated by West Bank settlers and their supporters, have been calling for a broader military response to the ongoing violence in the area.
‘Proud of our heroes on all fronts and this morning especially of our soldiers operating in Jenin,’ National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, an ultranationalist who recently called for Israel to kill ‘thousands’ of militants if necessary, tweeted. ‘Praying for their success.’
Monday’s deaths bring the death toll of Palestinians killed this year in the West Bank to 131, part of more than a yearlong spike in violence in that area that has seen some of the worst bloodshed in nearly two decades.
The outburst of violence escalated last year after a spate of Palestinian attacks prompted Israel to step up its raids in the West Bank.
Israel says the raids are meant to beat back militants. The Palestinians say such violence is inevitable in the absence of any political process with Israel and increased West Bank settlement construction and violence by extremist settlers. They see the intensifying Israeli military presence in the area as an entrenchment of Israel’s 56-year open-ended occupation of the territory.
Israel says most of those killed have been militants, but stone-throwing youths protesting the incursions and also people not involved in the confrontations have also been killed.
Palestinian attacks since the start of this year have killed 24 people.
Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians seek those territories for their hoped-for independent state.
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