Israeli forces have launched their most intense raids yet on cities in the occupied West Bank as they pressed on with one of the largest incursions in the territory since Israel’s war on Gaza began in October.
At least one person was killed after Israeli troops launched a coordinated overnight assault on 10 cities including Hebron, Halhul, Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarem, el-Bireh, Jericho and notably the centre of Ramallah, which is the administrative headquarters of the Palestinian Authority.
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The raids, which continued until early on Thursday morning, targeted Palestinian money exchange outlets.
“This was a raid like we haven’t seen in the centre of Ramallah, like no other. Since October 7 we haven’t seen a raid of this size,” Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan said, reporting from near the scene on Thursday.
He said the “unparalleled” raid began at 1am on Thursday (23:00 GMT Wednesday) and lasted for about four hours, with “at least 20 vehicles” entering Ramallah.
Israeli forces used tear gas and stun grenades to clear a street and then blocked off the area, before using a “controlled explosion” to enter a money exchange shop, Khan added.
The Palestine Monetary Authority said Israeli forces raided the headquarters of six exchange companies under its control across the occupied West Bank at dawn.
“The Israelis arrested a number of the owners of these companies and seized sums of money from their safes, after blowing them up,” it said in a statement, adding that it considers the attack “an act that violates all international norms, laws, charters and agreements, and aims to undermine confidence in the Palestinian banking and banking sector”.
According to Khan, three of the shops that were raided were in Ramallah.
“The Israelis say [the money exchanges] have been used by the resistance movements to finance their activities,” he said.
“In total, they actually seized about $2.5m in those raids.”
At the same time, fierce clashes broke out in al-Manara Square in the centre of Ramallah. One person was shot and killed and at least 15 others were injured during confrontations between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians.
“We treated and transported four injured Palestinians who were shot in the chest, shoulder, leg and sensitive areas with .223 calibre rounds,” Majd Omar, a paramedic with the Palestinian Life Society in Ramallah, told Al Jazeera.
He said they were able to get some of the injured to the hospital while others were transported by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS).
PRCS said one Palestinian was injured after being shot by Israeli forces in Nablus city. Nine people were injured in a separate raid on Halhul city, where two people were detained, the Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.
‘Deliberately provoking Palestinians’
Although Israeli raids are not unusual in the occupied West Bank, their scale, frequency and intensity have increased in recent weeks.
On Thursday, United Nations human rights chief Volker Turk said the situation in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem was rapidly deteriorating.
“The use of military tactics and weapons in law enforcement contexts, the use of unnecessary or disproportionate force, and the enforcement of broad, arbitrary and discriminatory movement restrictions that affect Palestinians are extremely troubling,” he said in a statement.
Palestinian NGOs said Israeli forces arrested at least 25 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, including former prisoners, overnight and on Thursday morning.
Rami Khouri, a distinguished fellow at the American University of Beirut, told Al Jazeera the raids were confirmation that the Israelis are moving to prevent the occupied West Bank from erupting in confrontation against Israel amid the war in Gaza.
“They don’t want the West Bank to emerge now as the next [front],” he said, adding that the raids are trying to end Palestinian resistance in the occupied West Bank.
According to Mouin Rabbani, a Middle East analyst, the escalation of violence in the occupied West Bank is part of an agenda of some Israeli officials “to permanently consolidate” Israel’s rule over the Palestinian territory.
“They are out to deliberately provoke the Palestinians to seek to create as much conflict as possible,” he told Al Jazeera. “They are even out to provoke the security forces of the Palestinian Authority, because in their view, should they become involved in a conflict, that would then give Israel a pretext to simply eliminate the Palestinian Authority altogether.”
Violence across the West Bank has flared since Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip began on October 7. In that time, more than 300 people have been killed in raids there and nearly 4,800 Palestinians have been arrested.
In the Gaza Strip, more than 21,000 people have been killed and at least 55,000 wounded in Israeli attacks since October 7.