Nablus, occupied West Bank – A large contingent of Israeli soldiers accompanied by a military bulldozer raided the Balata refugee camp, forced families to evacuate a residential building and then blew it up at about 3am on Wednesday.
The incident overnight was among several raids by Israeli forces in the city of Nablus in the occupied West Bank.
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The raids left one Palestinian man seriously injured and destroyed the Fatah party’s offices in Balata, in addition to the apartment building owned by Raed Shallal, the Palestinian Red Crescent and officials said.
“We were forcibly evicted, and we could not take anything out of the house, even ID cards and school bags,” Shallal, a 40-year-old father of seven, said. “We are now homeless, my wife and our children, the oldest is 12 and the youngest, a year and a half old.”
Also in Shallal’s destroyed building was the family home of a Palestinian man wanted by Israeli forces.
More than 80 Palestinians suffered from tear gas inhalation during the raids, the Red Crescent said.
Earlier, Israeli soldiers fired tear gas canisters at Palestinians in the eastern part of the city where they were providing cover for Israeli settlers who had stormed Joseph’s Tomb, a shrine located within an area controlled by the Palestinian Authority.
Israeli settlers frequently storm Nablus to perform prayers at the shrine under the guard of the Israeli army, believing that it is the tomb of the Prophet Joseph, while Palestinians say the tomb is only 200 years old and a Muslim man called Yousef Dweikat lived there.
One man, Mohammed Leila, was shot five times in the chest and twice in the legs near the tomb and was seriously wounded. He was transferred to Rafidia Hospital in Nablus, Ahmed Jibril, the director of the Emergency and Ambulance Center at the Red Crescent, said.
In a separate incident, another Palestinian was shot in his car by the Huwara checkpoint after allegedly firing at soldiers there, but Israeli forces prevented ambulance crews from reaching him and arrested him instead.
“Our medics were attacked and prevented from providing first aid to the injured man in his car,” Jibril told Al Jazeera. “He was kidnapped by the soldiers and taken to an unknown destination.”
Jibril said medics and first aid teams are often attacked, whether by verbal assault, physical beatings, or being targeted by live and rubber bullets, during Israel’s near-daily raids into the occupied West Bank.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Nablus Governor Ghassan Douglas, a Palestinian official who monitors Israeli settlements in the Nablus region, said these acts by the Israeli army are “clear evidence of the arrogance of the Israeli occupation”.
“We recorded the damages in the camp in the aftermath of the raid, and we will rebuild everything that was destroyed and return the residents to their homes,” he said.
“This is a message to the Israeli occupation that the Palestinian people remain, despite the siege imposed on them, until the occupation is defeated.”
In a statement, the Israeli military said its forces “blew up two laboratories for the production of explosive devices in the camp” and that 15 makeshift bombs were found at the site.
The statement also said Israeli forces “neutralised a number of explosives planted on the entrance road to Balata”.
But Douglas accused Israel of hiding behind claims of carrying out operations against “terrorists”, and said the Shallal building had housed four families.
Shallal, who had previously spent seven and a half years in Israeli prisons, said this is not the first time a family home has been targeted.
“Two months ago, the house of my brother and my mother was bombed, with the aim of forcing my brother Abdullah to turn himself in,” he said.
His mother Jamila Shallal, 60, said Israeli forces have been trying to arrest Abdullah since last December after they targeted her home with an ENERGA anti-tank grenade.
“The bombing of the two family homes has resulted in 29 members of my family being homeless,” she told Al Jazeera.
“Today, Israel has displaced us again after expelling my family from Jaffa in 1948,” she said, appealing to the Palestinian Authority to provide shelter.
Israel’s increased raids into the occupied West Bank have stoked violence, with more than 200 Palestinians killed there this year so far.