Israel Hits West Bank With Biggest Strikes Since 2006

At least 8 Palestinians killed in refugee camp, with 50 injured
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 3, 2023 9:30 AM CDT
Israel Hits West Bank With Biggest Strikes Since 2006
Tires burn during an Israeli military raid in the militant stronghold of the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank on Monday. Israeli drones struck targets in the area early Monday and hundreds of troops were deployed.   (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

Israel struck targets in a militant stronghold in the occupied West Bank with drones early Monday and deployed hundreds of troops in the area, reports the AP, in an incursion that resembled the wide-scale military operations carried out during the second Palestinian uprising two decades ago. Palestinian health officials said at least eight Palestinians were killed and dozens wounded. Troops remained inside the Jenin refugee camp at midday Monday, pushing ahead with the largest operation in the area during more than a year of fighting. It came at a time of growing domestic pressure for a tough response to a series of attacks on Israeli settlers, including a shooting attack last month that killed four Israelis.

Black smoke rose from the crowded camp, exchanges of fire rang out, and the buzzing of drones was heard overhead as the military pressed on. Residents said electricity was cut off in some parts and military bulldozers plowed through narrow streets, damaging buildings as they cleared the way for Israeli forces. The Palestinians and neighboring Jordan and Egypt and the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation condemned the violence. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said the operation was "proceeding as planned," but he gave no indication when the incursion would end. Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, an army rep, said roughly 2,000 soldiers were taking part in the operation, and that military drones had carried out a series of strikes to clear the way for ground forces. The Palestinian Health Ministry said at least eight Palestinians were killed and 50 people were wounded, 10 critically.

Although Israel has carried out isolated airstrikes in the West Bank in recent weeks, Hecht said Monday's strikes were an escalation unseen since 2006—the end of the Palestinian uprising. Lynn Hastings, the UN humanitarian coordinator in the Palestinian areas, said she was "alarmed by [the] scale of [the] Israeli forces operation," noting the airstrikes in a densely populated refugee camp. She said the UN was mobilizing humanitarian aid. Official Palestinian news agency WAFA noted the military blocked roads in the camp, took over houses and buildings, and set up snipers on rooftops, signaling the operation could drag on. Israeli military experts said they expected the operation to wrap up quickly—within hours or a day or two. Prolonged violence would risk attracting increased international criticism and drawing militants from the Gaza Strip or even Lebanon into the fighting.

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Islamic Jihad, a militant group with a large presence in Jenin, threatened to launch attacks from its Gaza Strip stronghold if the fighting dragged on. "If the Israeli aggression against Jenin does not stop, the Palestinian resistance will do what it has to do in a short time," said Dawood Shehab, a rep for the group. More than 130 Palestinians have been killed this year in the West Bank, part of more than a yearlong spike in violence that has seen some of the worst bloodshed in nearly two decades. Israel says most of those killed have been militants, but stone-throwing youths protesting the incursions and people uninvolved in confrontations have also been killed. Palestinian attacks against Israelis since the start of this year have killed 24 people.

(More Israel and Palestinians stories.)

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