Israeli troops have killed at least nine Palestinians in one of the deadliest days in the occupied West Bank since Israeli raids intensified at the start of last year.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health said 20 others were wounded with live ammunition in the raid on the Jenin refugee camp on Thursday, which Palestinians have described as a “massacre”. Four of them were in critical condition.
The dead included an elderly woman, according to Palestinian officials. She was identified as Magda Obaid by the Jenin hospital authorities.
Israeli forces, who withdrew from Jenin after the killings, said they were looking into reports of the woman’s death.
Meanwhile, Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade – an armed militia affiliated with the Palestinian political party Fatah – said the dead included one of its fighters, Izz al-Din Salahat.
According to the health ministry, another person, Saeb Azriqi, 24, succumbed to his injuries in a hospital.
It said the situation on the ground was very difficult, with injured people continuously reaching hospitals, as it accused Israeli forces of obstructing ambulances and medics.
“There is an invasion that is unprecedented … in terms of how large it is and the number of injuries,” Wissam Baker, head of Jenin public hospital, told Al Jazeera.
“The ambulance driver tried to get to one of the martyrs who was on the floor, but the Israeli forces shot directly at the ambulance and prevented them from approaching him,” Baker continued.
قوات الاحتلال تستهدف مركبة إسعاف بشكل مباشر في مخيم #جنين#الجزيرة pic.twitter.com/wxlk3btPH8
— الجزيرة فلسطين (@AJA_Palestine) January 26, 2023
[Translation: The [Israeli] occupation forces directly targeted an ambulance in the Jenin refugee camp.]
Israeli forces also fired tear gas canisters towards the hospital, affecting the children’s division, Baker said. It caused suffocation injuries to children and others, he said.
Israel’s army denied deliberately firing tear gas at the hospital. “No one shot tear gas on purpose at a hospital,” an army spokesman said. “But the activity was not far away from the hospital and it is possible some tear gar entered through an open window.”
PM Shtayyeh seeks UN intervention
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh released a statement calling on the United Nations and all international human rights organisations to “intervene urgently to provide protection for Palestinian people and stop the bloodshed of children, youth and women”.
Saleh al-Arouri, a prominent leader of the Hamas movement governing the blockaded Gaza Strip, said the “response of the resistance will not be delayed”.
Al Jazeera’s Youmna el-Sayed, reporting from Gaza, said Palestinian factions, including Hamas, announced a day of mourning and declared a state of alert.
“They called on the international community to hold the ‘occupation criminals’ accountable for their crimes and finally called out on the people in Gaza to go out in the streets and show their rage against the massacre committed in Jenin,” el-Sayed said.
Justifying the operation, the Israeli military said special forces had been sent into Jenin to detain Islamic Jihad fighters suspected of planning and carrying out “multiple major terror attacks”.
Israeli forces launched a large-scale raid and besieged the camp in the early hours with undercover forces, dozens of armoured vehicles and snipers. Armed clashes with Palestinian resistance fighters soon broke out.
The military added that several Palestinian fighters had been shot after they opened fire.
“During the operation, the security forces operated to surround the building in which the suspects were located. Two armed suspects were identified fleeing the scene and were neutralised by the security forces,” Israeli officials said in a statement.
No injuries were reported among the Israeli forces.
Jenin is among areas of the northern West Bank where Israel has intensified raids over the past year, in an attempt to crack down on growing armed Palestinian resistance.
Aleef Sabbagh, a political analyst specialising in Israeli affairs, said Thursday’s operation in Jenin “should be understood as a signal – it is the first shot in a coming, larger Israeli operation”.
“The lack of a response – neither Arab nor international – over what Israel is doing, is encouraging it to continue with its raids and killings,” Sabbagh told Al Jazeera.
“The targeting of ambulances and hospitals, preventing aid to wounded people, the field executions – even the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh – there has been no accountability. If there is no real, strong response, Israel will continue to do what it wants without punishment.”
Al Jazeera’s Shireen Abu Akleh, a veteran correspondent covering the occupied Palestinian territories for more than 25 years, was shot dead in May last years while she was covering a raid on the Jenin refugee camp.
No one has yet been held accountable for her killing.
Al Jazeera’s Senior Political Analyst Mawan Bishara said that “in the international arena, combating ‘terrorism’ has a magical sound to it. It’s able to justify anything and everything even when it’s totally incorrect”.
While Israel justifies its actions on security grounds, the Palestinians “see that as a cynical ploy aimed at humiliating the Palestinian authority,” the analyst said.
The raid took place in the so-called Area A, under Palestinian administrative and police control according to the terms of the Oslo agreement. “These young people of the refugee camp are just trying to protect themselves, it’s not like they’re going out in Israel and shooting at Israelis,” Bishara added.
The number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces during raids in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem in January has risen to at least 29 people, including five children. At least 15 of those killed were from Jenin.
More than 170 Palestinians were killed in such raids in 2022, many of them civilians.
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