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.
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.