Los Angeles Times

Nine slain in Israeli raid, Palestinia­ns say

Rockets are fired from the Gaza Strip after deadliest incident in occupied West Bank in two decades.

- By Majdi Mohammed and Tia Goldenberg Mohammed and Goldenberg write for the Associated Press.

JENIN REFUGEE CAMP, West Bank — Israeli forces on Thursday killed at least nine Palestinia­ns — including at least seven militants and a 61-year-old woman — in the deadliest single incident in the occupied West Bank in two decades, Palestinia­n officials said. The raid prompted Palestinia­n leaders to cut security ties with Israel, a move that could lead to more violence.

Early Friday, the Israeli military said two rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip and intercepte­d by its Iron Dome missile defense system. It was the first such attack from the militant Hamas-ruled territory since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power at the head of a farright government that has pledged a tough line against Palestinia­n militancy.

The raid in the Jenin refugee camp and the rocket fire increase the risk of a major flare-up in Israeli-Palestinia­n fighting, pose a test for Israel’s new hard-line government and cast a shadow on U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken’s expected trip to the region next week.

Raising the stakes, the Palestinia­n Authority said it would halt the ties that its security forces maintain with Israel in a shared effort to contain Islamic militants. Previous threats have been short-lived, in part because of the benefits the authority enjoys from the relationsh­ip and also due to U.S. and Israeli pressure to maintain it.

The authority already has limited control over scattered enclaves in the West Bank, and its forces have little authority in militant stronghold­s like the Jenin camp. But the announceme­nt could pave the way for Israel to step up operations it says are needed to prevent attacks.

Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls Gaza, threatened revenge for the raid. Violent escalation­s in the West Bank have previously triggered retaliator­y rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

Israeli forces in the West Bank and on the country’s border with Gaza went on heightened alert. Protesters poured into the streets across the territory, chanting in solidarity with Jenin. Palestinia­ns in the refugee camp dug a mass grave for the dead, and Palestinia­n Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declared three days of mourning.

Authority spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said Abbas had decided to cut security coordinati­on in “light of the repeated aggression against our people, and the underminin­g of signed agreements,” referring to commitment­s in the Oslo peace accords in the 1990s. He also said that the Palestinia­ns planned to file complaints with the U.N. Security Council, Internatio­nal Criminal Court and other internatio­nal bodies.

The authority last cut security coordinati­on with Israel in 2020, over Netanyahu’s drive to annex the occupied West Bank, which would render a future Palestinia­n state unviable. But six months later, the authority resumed cooperatio­n, signaling the financial importance of the relationsh­ip and the Palestinia­ns’ relief at the election of President Biden.

Barbara Leaf, the top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East, said the administra­tion was deeply concerned about the situation and said civilian casualties reported in Jenin were “quite regrettabl­e.” But she also said the Palestinia­n announceme­nt to suspend security cooperatio­n with Israel was a mistake.

“Obviously, we don’t think this is the right step to take at this moment,” she told reporters, saying the Palestinia­n vow to bring the matter to the United Nations and the Internatio­nal Criminal Court was problemati­c. “We want to see them move back in the other direction,” she said, adding: “They need to engage with each other.”

Thursday’s gun battle in the Jenin refugee camp broke out when the Israeli military conducted a rare daytime operation that it said was meant to prevent an imminent attack against Israelis. The camp, where the Palestinia­n Islamic Jihad militant group has a major foothold, has been a focus of nearly a year of Israeli arrest raids.

Hamas’ armed wing claimed four of the dead as members, while Islamic Jihad said three others belonged to the group. An earlier statement from the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a militia loosely affiliated with Abbas’ secular Fatah party, claimed one of the dead was a fighter named Izz al-Din Salahat, but it was unclear if he was among those seven militants.

The Palestinia­n Health Ministry identified the 61year-old woman killed as Magda Obaid, and the Israeli military said it was looking into reports of her death.

The Israeli military circulated video it said was taken during the battle, showing what appeared to be Palestinia­ns on rooftops hurling stones and firebombs on Israeli forces. At least one Palestinia­n can be seen opening fire from a rooftop.

Later in the day, Israeli forces fatally shot a 22-yearold and wounded two others, the Palestinia­n Health Ministry said, as young Palestinia­ns confronted Israeli troops north of Jerusalem to protest Thursday’s raid. Israel’s paramilita­ry border police said forces opened fire on Palestinia­ns who launched fireworks at them from close range.

Tensions between Israelis and Palestinia­ns have soared since Israel stepped up raids in the West Bank last spring, after a series of Palestinia­n attacks.

Israel’s new national security minister, far-right politician Itamar Ben-Gvir, who seeks to grant legal immunity to Israeli soldiers who shoot Palestinia­ns, posted a video of himself Thursday beside the chief of Israeli police, beaming triumphant­ly and congratula­ting security forces.

The raid left a trail of destructio­n in Jenin. A twostory building, apparently the operation’s target, was a charred wreck. The military said it entered the building to detonate explosives.

Palestinia­n Health Minister May Kaila said paramedics struggled to reach the wounded during the fighting, and Akram Rajoub, the governor of Jenin, said the military prevented emergency workers from evacuating them. Both accused the Israeli military of firing tear gas at the pediatric ward of a hospital, causing children to choke.

The Israeli military said that its forces closed roads to facilitate the operation, which may have complicate­d the efforts of rescue teams, and that tear gas had probably wafted into the hospital from the clashes nearby.

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said Thursday marked the bloodiest West Bank incursion since 2002, at the height of an intense wave of violence known as the second intifada, or Palestinia­n uprising.

“We ask that the internatio­nal community help the Palestinia­ns against this extremist right-wing government and protect our citizens,” said Rajoub, the Jenin governor.

The United Nations’ Middle East envoy, Tor Wennesland, said he was “deeply alarmed and saddened” by the violence and called for calm. Condemnati­ons came from the Organizati­on of Islamic Cooperatio­n and Turkey, which recently reestablis­hed full diplomatic ties with Israel, as well as from neighborin­g Jordan.

Saudi Arabia criticized the raid, saying it rejected the “serious violations of internatio­nal law by the Israeli occupation forces.” Qatar, Kuwait and Oman added condemnati­ons.

Tensions surroundin­g violence in the West Bank have in the past spilled into Gaza.

“The response of the resistance to what happened today in Jenin camp will not be delayed,” top Hamas official Saleh Arouri warned.

The Islamic Jihad branch in the coastal enclave has repeatedly fought against Israel, most recently in a fierce three-day clash last year that killed dozens of Palestinia­ns and disrupted the lives of hundreds of thousands of Israelis.

Nearly 150 Palestinia­ns were killed last year, making 2022 the deadliest since 2004, according to B’Tselem. So far this year, 29 Palestinia­ns have been killed.

Last year, 30 people were killed in Palestinia­n attacks against Israelis.

Israel says its raids are meant to dismantle militant networks and thwart attacks. The Palestinia­ns say the attacks further entrench Israel’s 55-year, open-ended occupation.

Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East war, territorie­s the Palestinia­ns claim for their hoped-for state.

Israel has establishe­d dozens of settlement­s in the West Bank that now house 500,000 people. The Palestinia­ns and much of the internatio­nal community view settlement­s as illegal and an obstacle to peace. Negotiatio­ns to end the conf lict have been moribund for more than a decade.

 ?? Majdi Mohammed Associated Press ?? PALESTINIA­NS clash with Israeli forces after a raid in the West Bank on Thursday. The raid prompted Palestinia­n leaders to cut security ties with Israel.
Majdi Mohammed Associated Press PALESTINIA­NS clash with Israeli forces after a raid in the West Bank on Thursday. The raid prompted Palestinia­n leaders to cut security ties with Israel.

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