Israel’s military has launched air raids on the Jenin refugee camp in the northern occupied West Bank, carrying out an ongoing large-scale attack that involved a missile and the killing of at least eight Palestinians, according to residents and officials.
A ninth Palestinian, 21-year-old Mohammad Hasanein, was killed overnight on Monday by the Israeli army at the northern entrance to the city of Ramallah in the central occupied West Bank, the health ministry said. At least two dozen other Palestinians were injured in the camp, including many who remain in critical condition.
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Residents said Israel launched at least 10 air attacks in Jenin overnight on Monday, sending smoke billowing from the wreckage of buildings. A convoy of dozens of Israeli armoured vehicles also surrounded the refugee camp and launched a ground military operation, causing heavy damage to homes and roads.
The attacks on Monday came amid escalating violence in the West Bank, including the first Israeli drone assault in the area since 2006, increasing military raids on Jenin and northern occupied Palestinian territories and settler attacks in Palestinian villages.
The Israeli military said in a statement that it struck a “joint operations centre”, which served as a command centre for the Jenin Brigades, a unit comprised of fighters from different Palestinian armed groups.
It said the site functioned as an “advanced observation and reconnaissance centre” and a weapons and explosives site as well as a coordination and communications hub for Palestinian fighters. It also provided an aerial photograph showing what it said was the target site and which indicated that the building hit was located near two schools and a medical centre.
Al Jazeera’s Nida Ibrahim, reporting from Ramallah, said the Israeli military also announced the arrest of several “wanted Palestinians and the seizure of explosive devices”.
“Those are the homemade Palestinian explosives that wounded eight Israeli soldiers during last month’s Israeli raid on the Jenin refugee camp. This was something that caught the Israeli forces by surprise and led to the use of choppers to drop missiles on Palestinians. This is the first incident of its kind that we’ve seen in the refugee camp and in the occupied West Bank in roughly 20 years,” Ibrahim said.
The army continued to enforce a siege on the camp on Monday morning, closing off all entrances with tractors.
Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem bureau chief Walid al-Omari said “some 150 armoured vehicles and about 1,000 soldiers from elite special forces and the military, as well as general intelligence, police and border police” were taking part in the operation.
“They are enforcing a total siege on the camp, while special forces are operating inside the camp, raiding homes, searching them and arresting many people,” al-Omari said.
A 60-year-old resident of the Jenin refugee camp, Afiyeh Jameel Yousef Sbeih, told Al Jazeera that the Israeli army fired live ammunition into their home, injuring her niece.
Her niece, 25-year-old Hanaa Najeeb, who is studying to be a doctor, had just arrived for a visit from Jordan two days ago with her mother and were staying at Sbeih’s home.
“A bullet entered through the front door and hit my niece in the leg while she was in the bathroom. The bullet pierced her leg and went out from the other side,” Sbeih told Al Jazeera from the Ibn Sina hospital.
“We found at least three bullets on our front door, and others across the walls,” added Sbeih about their home in the Hawashiyeh neighbourhood of the Jenin refugee camp.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Jenin’s deputy governor Kamal Abu al-Rub said the Israeli army “is not only targeting people, but the infrastructure of the camp as well. They have cut off all electricity, telecommunications and water”.
“This is collective punishment for all residents of Jenin, and particularly the refugee camp,” Abu al-Rub said from Jenin, describing Israel’s actions inside the camp as “terrorism”.
“They are the ones [who] raid our areas and our homes, and it is our right to defend our dignity and honour because we are the rightful owners of this land.”
“What is giving Israel the green light are the Arab governments and the Arab League who have turned their backs on us, and the organisations which claim they are defending human rights. Their mere silence is what is giving Israel the green light to carry out even more crimes against our people in Jenin.”
In a statement on Monday morning, the Palestinian Authority’s foreign ministry said it “condemns in the strongest terms the barbaric aggression of the occupation against our people in Jenin and its camp”, and held the Israeli government responsible.
It noted that the Israeli aggression targeted “defenceless civilians, including targeting ambulances, crews, and health centres, depriving them of treating the wounded, targeting mosques and homes, and destroying infrastructure”.
The ministry said it “calls for urgent international and American intervention to stop the aggression immediately, and calls on the International Criminal Court to break its silence and start holding the Israeli war criminals accountable”.
The Palestinian Red Crescent Society urgently called for a “safe passage to evacuate the wounded and injured”.
“We are coordinating with the Red Cross and international organisations to force Israel to open a safe passage. The number of wounded and injuries is on the rise,” the organisation said in a statement on Monday.
The head of surgery at the Ibn Sina hospital in Jenin, Tawfeeq al-Shobaki, told Al Jazeera that “there are still injured people in the camp that the medical teams are facing difficulty reaching”.
He noted that “there are people that underwent surgery and are still in the intensive care units [ICUs] and [who] are in need of constant monitoring and may need further surgery”.
“Things are under control at the moment but there is fear of an increase in the number of people injured. We are in contact with other hospitals inside and outside Jenin to provide more ICU and surgery rooms.”
The health ministry identified the names of four of the people killed in Jenin as Sameeh Abu al-Wafa, Hussam Abu Theeba, Aws al-Hanoun and Nour el-Din Marshoud, noting that they were all shot in the chest and head.
The Israeli attacks set off a gun battle with Palestinian resistance fighters that lasted into Monday morning, with the sounds of explosives and drones continuing to be heard across Jenin on Monday morning.
As daylight broke on Monday, thick black smoke from burning tyres set alight by residents swirled through the streets and calls to support the fighters rang out from loudspeakers in mosques.
Khaled al-Ahmad, a Palestinian ambulance driver, told the Reuters news agency on Monday that “what is going on in the [Jenin] refugee camp is real war”.
“There were strikes from the sky targeting the camp, every time we drive in around five to seven ambulances and we come back full with injured people,” said al-Ahmad.
“There is bombing from the air and an invasion from the ground,” Mahmoud al-Saadi, the director of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society in Jenin, told the AFP news agency.
The Jenin Brigades said it was engaging the Israeli forces, while the Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad armed group said in a statement that “all options are open to strike the enemy [Israel] in response to its aggression in Jenin”.
Monday’s attacks came amid rising worries of a broader escalation. At least three Palestinians were killed in the Israeli drone attack on June 21, while seven were killed and more than 100 wounded in a raid that involved helicopter gunships over Jenin on June 19.
Palestinian gunmen also killed four Israeli settlers on June 20, while at least one Palestinian man was shot dead the next day as Israeli settlers stormed the village of Turmus Ayya and set fire to dozens of cars and homes.
The recent unrest has prompted global concern, with the United Nations human rights chief condemning Israel’s use of heavy weaponry, including drones and helicopter gunships, in the West Bank, which it has occupied since 1967.
Volker Turk called the Israeli attacks a “major intensification of the use of weaponry more generally associated with the conduct of armed hostilities, rather than a law enforcement situation”.
“Israel must urgently reset its policies and actions in the West Bank in line with international human rights standards, including protecting and respecting the right to life,” he added.
‘Revenge for resistance’
The escalating violence has left dozens of people dead since the start of the year.
At least 185 Palestinians, 25 Israelis, a Ukrainian and an Italian have been killed, according to an AFP tally compiled from official sources from both sides.
Ali Abunimah, the founder of The Electronic Intifada website, blamed Israel for the ongoing violence, saying it was “Israel that is constantly escalating as the occupying power”.
“Remember that Jenin and the northern West Bank, in general, are intensely subject to Israeli settler colonisation by the most fanatical settlers, who have been engaging in pogroms across the West Bank in recent weeks, aided and abetted and supported by the Israeli army and the Israeli government,” Abunimah told Al Jazeera.
“This attack on Jenin is entirely about satisfying the bloodlust of Israeli settlers and getting revenge on the Palestinian people for the increasing resistance to the settler invasion of the northern West Bank and the increasing record levels of theft of Palestinian land for colonial settlement,” he said.
“It is the resistance that is responding to Israeli colonisation and invasion, not Israel responding to Palestinians.”
Abunimah said Israel and its enablers in the West, principally the United States and the European Union, were “solely responsible for the bloodshed”.
“This violence is in their control. It is the result of their policies, of allowing the occupier to constantly go wild on the Palestinians in its relentless effort to steal their land and replace them with colonists from all over the world.”