Jenin, West Bank –The city of Jenin and its camp for displaced Palestinians witnessed a large-scale Israeli military operation, which experts and residents described as the largest “most violent” raid in recent times, on June 20. Two weeks later, on July 3, Israeli forces carried out an even bigger raid. In total, at least 17 Palestinians have been killed and well over 100 were wounded – many of them critically as a result of the violence. One Israeli soldier was killed, while seven Israeli soldiers and another eight Israeli civilians were injured.
Background to the Raids
The initial raid on June 20 was described by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) as an “arrest operation” targeting a newly established Palestinian resistance group known as the “Jenin Brigade,” which has strong ties to Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). During this raid Israeli forces “encountered unexpectedly stiff resistance” and came under heavy fire. One of the Israeli military vehicles was also hit with an “unusual and dramatic” improvised explosive device (IED), the scale of which seemed to be of particular concern for the IDF.
The “arrest operation” did not go as planned and the IDF was forced to call in U.S. made “Apache” helicopter gunships to assist in evacuating its wounded soldiers. Such tactics were observed as having not been used in “a long time” and represented a significant escalation to an already volatile situation. Unicorn Riot spoke with Jenin resident, Mahmoud Abdel-Hadi who described the Israeli retreat as a victory for the Palestinian resistance movement, stating:
“…The occupation is now in ambush and under siege and [Israel] is the one who pays the price as [they] paid the price twenty years ago in the battle of the Jenin camp.”Mahmoud Abdel-Hadi
Soon after the disastrous operation, elements of the Israeli far-right began calling for the IDF to increase the size and scale of its military operations in Jenin to “…eradicate the nests of terror.”
July 3 Raid ‘Operation Bayit Vagan‘
Two weeks later, on July 3, the IDF followed up with an even bigger raid on Jenin, known informally within the IDF as Operation Bayit Vagan (House and Garden). The operation involved drone strikes, attack helicopters and over 1000 IDF ground troops. The escalated military operation resulted in the killing and wounding of even more Palestinians than the previous, with at least 12 – including a Palestinian man near Ramallah – reportedly killed and at least 100 wounded. Israeli media also reported that seven Israeli civilians were wounded in reprisal attacks and an Israeli soldier was killed in an exchange of gunfire inside the Jenin camp.
Despite publicly announcing that this latest operation was meant to strike “terrorist infrastructure”, Jenin’s Deputy Mayor, Mohammed Jarar, countered that civilian infrastructure and homes had been destroyed, cutting off water and electricity at Jenin’s camp for displaced people.
Additionally, bulldozers had been seen tearing up roads in the camp to “disarm potential explosives.” The IDF later claimed that it had “located and destroyed at least 11 improvised explosive devices” and further justified its actions by claiming that the camp has become “a terrorist stronghold.” They further claimed that “there are only eight terrorists [that] died” while also acknowledging that its forces injured numerous civilians.
On the first night of the raids, humanitarian aide organization Red Crescent said that its crews in Jenin evacuated more than 500 families from inside the camp for displaced people. At least 3,000 people have since left the camp in fear of further Israeli assaults. The crews explained that they were having difficulty moving inside the camp due to the closure of roads by the occupation.
This came after Israeli forces forcibly displaced hundreds of citizens from their homes in the area near the Al-Hussan roundabout, demanding via loudspeaker that they evacuate the homes and relocate to the hospital yards and the Jenin municipal hall.
The next day, a Palestinian man from the West Bank carried out an attack motivated by revenge in Tel Aviv, ramming his car into a crowd of people at a bus stop before getting out and stabbing seven civilians. The attacker was quickly shot dead by an unidentified armed Israeli civilian wearing a motorcycle helmet. All seven of those injured survived the attack, though four of them remain in critical condition.
Israeli’s Shin Bet security agency named the attacker as Abdel-Wahhab Issa Hussein Khalayleh, a 20-year-old man from the West Bank who did not have a permit to enter the West Bank. The Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) released a statement taking direct responsibility and praising Khalayleh for his “execution of the heroic operation in “Tel Aviv.”…This heroic operation is a legitimate self-defense against the ongoing Zionist massacre in Jenin, and the crimes of displacement, killing and destruction committed by the occupation forces.”
On July 5, 2023, the IDF announced it was ending combat operations and retreated from Jenin. Thousands of Palestinians in West Bank reportedly celebrated the withdrawal, though some stated that a large Israeli force was still present. On the same day, Israel launched an air raid on the Gaza Strip in response to retaliatory rockets fired by Hamas from the area. There are currently no casualties reported from that incident.
The following day on June 6 a Palestinian man killed an Israeli soldier near the West Bank settlement of Kedumim, before being shot dead by Israeli forces. At least a couple rockets were also reportedly launched from Lebanese territory, which Israel responded to with artillery strikes targeting the area “from which the missile was launched.”
Large funeral processions drawing thousands of people were held across the West Bank for those slain by Israeli forces. The IDF maintains that while many Palestinian civilians were wounded by its forces “no non-combatants were killed,” a claim that has yet to be independently verified.
In response to the operation, the Palestinian presidency decided to stop all contacts and meetings with the Israelis, end joint security coordination, and “legalize the relationship with the US administration.” Hamas levied a more critical position against the U.S., criticizing it for its continued support of Israel and its “aggression against our people and a participation of the occupation in its war,” noting that this position “is an encouragement for the occupation to escalate its violations against everything that is Palestinian.”
Meanwhile in Israel there are signs that the population is growing increasingly opposed to Israel’s constant military raids against Palestine as there were two anti-war demonstrations held in Tel Aviv and Haifa in solidarity with Jenin residents. All of this comes at a politically sensitive time as the current Israeli far-right government has come under fire from a historic mass protest movement against it’s controversial plans to reform Israel’s judicial system.
Some analysts say that the latest operation by Israel marks yet another strategic failure in its attempts to destroy and neutralize the Palestinian resistance and in fact may wind up bolstering support for it. As such, Israeli forces have vowed to return sometime in the near future, likely with even more lethal firepower than before.