What is behind Israel’s major attack on Jenin?

Israel is only increasing the scale of its incursions into occupied territories in the face of Palestinian resistance.

A convoy of army vehicles is seen during an Israeli military raid on the Jenin refugee camp
A convoy of army vehicles is seen during an Israeli military raid on the Jenin refugee camp [Majdi Mohammed/AP Photo]

Israel has launched one of its biggest attacks on the occupied West Bank, killing at least ten Palestinians in the Jenin refugee camp and wounding at least 100 more.

The latest operation, ongoing on Monday, marks a significant escalation and follows a raid in Jenin two weeks ago that killed seven Palestinians and that was itself one of the largest conducted in years.

Let’s take a closer look at Israel’s targeting of Jenin.

How deadly is the latest attack on Jenin?

The latest incursion into Jenin began on Sunday night with at least 10 air attacks in the densely-packed area, which houses some 14,000 displaced Palestinians in less than half a square kilometre (0.20sq mile).

The attack included drone strikes and a missile, which damaged buildings and infrastructure, sending smoke billowing from the wreckage.

Before June 21, when Israel carried out a drone strike near Jenin that left several people dead and angered Palestinian fighters, it had not used drone strikes in the occupied West Bank since 2006.

After the strikes, Israeli forces then completely surrounded the refugee camp using dozens of armoured vehicles in preparation for a massive ground military operation that caused heavy damage to homes and roads.

Some 150 armoured vehicles and about 1,000 soldiers from elite special forces, the military, general intelligence, police and border police participated in the operation. City entrances were closed off using tractors, which also aided the troops in making their entrance into Jenin.

Gunfights ensued after Israeli forces entered the camp and were faced by Palestinian resistance fighters.

Residents reported bullets indiscriminately fired into their homes, and Jenin’s Deputy Governor Kamal Abu al-Rub told Al Jazeera that the Israeli army cut off all electricity, telecommunications and water in a “collective punishment” for all residents.

Who is Israel targeting?

The Jenin refugee camp has increasingly become home to Palestinian fighters, especially in the past year, as Israel expands its raids in the occupied West Bank.

The fighters include hundreds under the banner of the Jenin Brigades, a newly-emerged group, compromised of combatants from several armed factions. Fighters from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Fatah and Hamas groups are also thought to be active in Jenin.

An increasing number of Palestinian youth have taken up arms against Israel, in the face of growing Israeli military operations and efforts to expand illegal settlements in the West Bank. Along with Gaza, Jenin has now become a main symbol of Palestinian resistance.

The Jenin Brigades are just one of the newly emergent groups, which represent increased disillusionment with the Palestinian Authority and frustration at the ongoing Israeli occupation.

One of the main goals of Israel’s raids in the West Bank over the past two years has been to crush the new groups, part of an operation called “Break the Wave”.

The Israeli military said its latest attack on Jenin hit a weapons production and explosives storage facility, while its forces seized an improvised rocket launcher.

An army spokesman told journalists that Monday’s operation was intended to help “break the safe haven mindset of the camp, which has become a hornets’ nest”.

The spokesman said the army believes the growing scale of the operations “will minimise friction” and signalled similar tactics may continue to be pursued as Israeli forces have been met with increasing resistance on the ground.

During last month’s raid on Jenin, several Israeli soldiers were injured and army vehicles were severely damaged by improvised explosives as the military appeared to have been taken by surprise.

The military then used helicopter gunships to support the troops and vehicles on the ground, something that had not happened in the occupied West Bank in 20 years.

Escalating violence

Monday’s attack comes as violence and tensions continue to grow in Israel and Palestine.

Israeli army raids in Jenin and other cities have become commonplace for more than a year, and are periodically responded to by Palestinians.

After the previous raid on Jenin, two Palestinian gunmen killed four Israeli settlers before they were themselves killed. This was followed by a string of attacks and violent raids by Israeli settlers, who stormed Palestinian villages and set fire to homes and cars.

Israel then approved plans to build thousands of new homes in settlements in the occupied West Bank, which are illegal under international law.

Analysts have said that the current escalation in Jenin might be part of an effort by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to placate far-right ministers in his own government, as he continues to face domestic pressure from the country’s opposition.

The United Nations has called on Israel to stop the plans and refrain from using violence. The UN has slammed Israel’s use of “advanced military weaponry” and warned that violence in occupied territories “risks spiralling out of control”.

The United States has also expressed concern about the settlements and the conflict.

The Joint Operations Room of the Palestinian Resistance Factions, an umbrella group comprising political parties in Gaza, on Monday called on all Palestinians to rally around Jenin, raising the possibility of a stronger Palestinian response to the strengthening Israeli operations.

Source: Al Jazeera