Israeli forces kill five Palestinians in Jericho raid

Palestinians say the raid comes after a weeklong Israeli siege of the West Bank city.

A house destroyed by Israeli troops during a military raid in Jericho, in the occupied West Bank, February 4, 2023
A house destroyed by Israeli troops during a military raid in Jericho, in the occupied West Bank, February 4, 2023 [Mohammed Torokman/Reuters]

Ramallah, occupied West Bank – Israeli forces have shot dead at least five Palestinian men during a raid on Jericho in the eastern occupied West Bank.

The large-scale raid took place in the early hours of Monday in the Aqabet Jabr refugee camp – which has been under an Israeli siege, as described by Palestinians, for more than a week – and continued until after dawn.

Confirming the death of five people, the governor of Jericho said three others were injured.

The Israeli military initially said in a statement that it had killed seven men in total, including two responsible for an attempted shooting attack in Jericho on January 28, and five others who had engaged the army in fighting during the raid.

The army said it withheld the bodies of five of the men killed, including those it claimed were “members of the Hamas cell in Jericho, including the perpetrators of the Almog [checkpoint] operation”.

It was unclear whether all of the men were firing back at the Israeli army when they were shot.

The shooting on January 28 did not lead to any casualties. It took place just two days after a large-scale Israeli raid on the Jenin refugee camp in which 10 Palestinians were killed.

Hamas, the Palestinian group governing the besieged Gaza Strip, did not claim any of the seven men killed as its members.

During the raid on Jericho, Israeli forces arrested Hamas leader Shaker Amara, who was recently released from prison.

Israeli forces also arrested a 48-year-old woman, Rajaa Karsou, during a raid on the Balata refugee camp in the northern occupied city of Nablus in the West Bank on Monday morning.

Hamas warns of revolution after Jericho ‘massacre’

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem told Al Jazeera that the “massacre” committed by the Israeli army in Jericho would “fuel a revolution” among Palestinians.

“The continuous killings confirm the Israeli occupation’s great confusion in dealing with the escalation and expansion of resistance in all of the cities, camps and villages of the West Bank, and its inability to stop its escalation,” Qassem said.

On Saturday, a new Hamas-affiliated cross-factional Palestinian armed group, the Aqabet Jabr Brigades, announced itself to the public in a parade and a statement.

It is the latest of a number of small armed resistance groups to emerge across the Israeli-occupied West Bank since September 2021, mainly in Jenin and Nablus.

Israeli forces have been imposing movement restrictions on the camp for more than a week and carrying out raids, including one on Saturday that led to several live ammunition injuries.

Palestinian Authority (PA) spokesman Ibrahim Melhem said he and Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh visited the camp on Sunday. He said the residents of the camp had been “under siege for nine days” and “held the [Israeli] occupation government fully responsible for what residents are exposed to, from harassment and organised terrorism”.

On Friday, the PA’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned “in the strongest terms the unjust siege imposed by the Israeli occupation authorities on the city of Jericho for the eighth day in a row under false pretexts, and considers it an ugly form of collective punishment against all unarmed Palestinian civilians who spend long hours at the occupation checkpoints”.

Tensions on the ground have greatly increased since Israel’s assault on Jenin. The day after the raid, on January 27, a Palestinian carried out a shooting attack, killing seven Israelis in an illegal Jewish settlement in occupied East Jerusalem.

The settlement, Neve Yaakov, had been built on the lands of Palestinian localities of Beit Hanina, Hizma and al-Ram.

Monday’s killings in Jericho bring the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces since the start of 2023 to 43, including eight children.

The United Nations marked 2022 as the deadliest year for Palestinians since the end of the second Intifada, or mass uprising, in 2005.

Source: Al Jazeera