A day of protest and resistance across Palestine following ‘massacre’ in Jenin

Mariam Barghouti

Mondoweiss  /  January 27, 2023

Palestinians responded to Israel’s “massacre” in Jenin with protests and resistance across the West Bank, including an attack on an East Jerusalem Jewish settlement where at least seven Israelis were killed.

On Thursday, January 26, Israeli forces invaded Jenin refugee camp and killed nine Palestinians in what became called by residents of the camp ‘a massacre.’ Later that day, 22-year-old Yousef Abedalkarim Muhsein became the 10th Palestinian killed when he was shot by Israeli forces in Al-Ram, near Ramallah.

On Friday, Palestinians responded.

Throughout Friday, Palestinians across historic Palestine rose in protests. These confrontations were driven by the massacre in Jenin specifically, and the routine provocations from settlers, intelligence, and armed forces engaged in the illegal annexation of the little which remains of the West Bank.

The day culminated with five armed shooting operations carried out across the West Bank Friday night, including one in the Jewish settlement of Neve Yaakov in occupied East Jerusalem, which resulted in the death of at least seven Jewish settlers. 

Prayer as protest

At dawn hours on Friday, the holiest day of the week for Muslim worshippers, tens of thousands of Palestinians in Jerusalem and hundreds in Hebron/Al-Khalil performed dawn prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque and Al-Ibrahimi Mosque, respectively. 

“There is a danger,” Jalal Abu-Khater, a writer from Jerusalem tells Mondoweiss. “We feel Al-Aqsa is being taken over and this isn’t in our head,” he emphasized. “This is very real, where we’re losing our last place of sovereignty in Jerusalem.”

The act of collective prayer in these specific areas has become a defiant act of resistance amid the continued settler invasions and police violence witnessed in Al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem’s Old City and settler-military attacks in Hebron’s Old City where more than 800 settlers live protected by Israeli forces.

In Jerusalem, Palestinians rose in chants in support of Jenin and the resistance from Gaza in light of the continued repression and targeting of Palestinians. 

“Being frequently present there in this place allows us to remain attached to it,” Abu Khater explained. “It’s a common place for many people in the world, but it’s a personal space for us in Jerusalem.” 

Indeed, on January 3 of this year, the extremist right-wing Minister of Interior, Itamar Ben-Gvir, entered Al-Aqsa compound in a provocation attempt that mirrored the former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon’s entry to the compound in September of 2000. Sharon’s entry sparked the second Palestinian uprising.

Today, Nafeesa Khuwais, a Palestinian elder known in the Old City as a guardian of Al-Aqsa, was arrested and escorted out by a group of armed border police.  In Arabic, the civilians which remain in the Aqsa compound in order to protect it and maintain Palestinian presence in the holy place of worship are known as Murabiteen, which means the guardians who station against aggression.

In a similar effort, Palestinians in Hebron are often denied entry to Al-Ibrahimi Mosque. This became policy after the 1994 massacre by the Israeli-American settler, Baruch Goldstein who- with the support of the Israeli military- entered the mosque at dawn prayers and opened fire on worshippers, killing 29 Palestinians. Goldstein is still celebrated by settlers in Hebron in an annual ceremony. 

Last year was a record year for settler violence and Palestinian displacement. At dawn on Friday, however, the streets of Hebron’s Old city were full of Palestinians who shared food and bread, bringing life to the streets which- once vibrant- have become a ghost town.

“Going to pray there is a political act in and of itself, and that’s why it’s important,” Abu Khater elaborated. 

Demonstrations across Palestine

Friday morning and afternoon were full of protests and confrontations against Israeli violence and persistent settler expansion. 

In the West Bank, Yousef Abedalkarim Muhsein’s funeral procession moved from Ramallah hospital compound on Friday morning, headed towards his town of Al-Ram where he was buried. Videos of the final farewell to Muhsein show his friends and community members throwing themselves over his body as they prepare to lay him to rest.

Confrontations ensued in Al-Ram following the funeral, with youth hurling stones at Israeli forces who threw teargas, live ammunition, and stun grenades at demonstrators. Israeli soldiers also prevented journalists from covering the demonstrations and Muhsein’s funeral procession.

More protests occurred near military stations, settlements, and checkpoints in villages and towns around Jericho, Nablus, Qalqilya, Ramallah, Hebron, and Jerusalem, where Israeli armed forces responded with force.

“From Kufr Nima to Jenin, we are a united people which does not die,” the chants echoed in the small village of Kufr Nima, 13 km northwest of Ramallah. Across the demonstrations, various factional flags were carried, signaling the continued growth of unification across the country. 

On Friday evening, Palestinian citizens of Israel in Umm al-Fahem and Haifa also organized protests against the massacre in Jenin. “Raise your voice,” protestors chanted in Haifa, “raise, raise again, the sound of the chants,” they continued as Israeli police attempted to break apart the group. 

Two Palestinians were arrested in Umm al-Fahem and at least three in Haifa, according to local news sources. 

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip also denounced the massacre in Jenin and joined in protests which broke out late Thursday evening. Dozens of Palestinians protested near the imposed Israeli border near Khan Younis city, south of the strip, while hundreds of Palestinians in Al-Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza, also joined protests and burned tires. 

Official responses

“Security coordination with the government of the occupation is no longer an open consideration,” the Palestinian Authority’s presidential office spokesperson, Nabil Abu Rdeineh said in a statement following Thursday’s Israeli raid on Jenin.  

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has historically threatened to cut security ties with Israel but continued in arresting Palestinians on behalf of Israel, as witnessed in last year’s mass crackdown on the Lions’ Den, the armed resistance group operating out of the Old City in Nablus as well as the intensified arrests of dozens of politically active youth across the West Bank.

In an emergency meeting, the Palestinian Authority called for accountability through the International Criminal Court by adding the most recent massacre in Jenin to the criminal file against Israeli human rights violations. In addition, the PA called for an immediate intervention through the UN security council under its seventh charter with respect to acts of aggression.

On behalf of the presidential office, Abu Rdeineh had also called on all national movements to meet to agree on a collective national vision for confronting the Israeli assault.

While the Palestinian Authority denounced the massacre in Jenin following an emergency meeting, Palestinian factions in Gaza responded to the massacre by firing rockets toward Ashkelon, according to local media. The attack was conducted by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), which is also connected to the armed resistance groups operating from Jenin refugee camp.

Between 1:00 a.m and 4:00 a.m on Friday, Israeli warplanes began bombing several locations affiliated to the Palestinian factions in Al-Maghazi refugee camp located in central Gaza, as well as Beit Hanoun, located north of Gaza. No casualties were reported. 

“The resistance in Gaza is doing its duties and defending our people in Gaza,” Hazem Qassem, the spokesperson for Hamas, said in a statement. The armed wing of Hamas, Al-Qassam Bridges had emphasized that Israeli warplanes will be confronted with by anti-aircraft and ground-to-air defense.

More Palestinian factions announced their support for an armed Palestinian response to the massacre in Jenin. The leftist political group, the Palestinian Front for Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) also denounced the massacre against Palestinians in Jenin and noted that Palestinian factions in Gaza have the right to respond accordingly.

“The coming weeks will witness more Israeli escalation against our people due to the Israeli fascist government practices and laws that target Palestinians in all Palestine and the Palestinian prisoners,” the spokesperson for the PFLP, Jamel Mezher, said on Friday. 

Mezher also predicted that March and April will likely see an increase in provocative Israeli actions due to the Jewish holiday calendar, as holidays often coincide with increased attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem. 

As protests were quelled by Israeli police and military on Friday evening, Palestinian armed resistance activities across the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem erupted.

The rise of armed resistance

At approximately 8:15 p.m., a shooting attack occurred by the illegal Jewish settlement of Neve Ya’akov near East Jerusalem. The shooting resulted in the killing of at least seven Jewish settlers and injuring at least three, according to Israeli police reports. 

Escaping towards Beit Hanina, one of the last remaining Palestinian towns in East Jerusalem, the Palestinian man who carried out the shooting was followed by Israeli police and killed in a shootout. According to local sources, the attacker had used a handgun to carry out the armed attack. 

The man was later identified by Israeli police as Alkam Khairi, 21, from Shufaat refugee camp, north of Jerusalem. 

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu both made statements at the scene of the attack. Ben-Gvir pledged to “arm more and more citizens,” while Netanyahu called the attack “one of the worst we have seen in recent years.” The Netanyahu government’s cabinet will reportedly meet tomorrow to discuss a response.

Between 6:00 and 9:00 p.m. on Friday, a total of five armed resistance operations were carried out across various military targets in the West Bank. 

Armed Palestinians targeted Beit Furik military checkpoint east of Nablus, Ofer military detention camp west of Ramallah, Beit Ummar military tower near the illegal Jewish settlement of Karmei Tzur northwest of Hebron, while the Jalameh checkpoint northeast of Jenin was targeted with a home-made explosive device, according to local sources. 

In addition to this, Palestinian youth threw Molotov cocktails at Israeli military towers located near Al-Arroub refugee camp in Hebron while resistance fighters shot at Israeli military planes flying over Qabatiya and Jaba’ south of Jenin. 

Following the operation in Jerusalem, Palestinians across the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem went to the streets in celebration.

The day of protest and retribution followed the massacre in Jenin which brought the number of Palestinians killed in the first three weeks of 2023 to 32 Palestinians. Due in part to Israel’s military assault on the West Bank launched in the spring of last year, dubbed Operation Break the Wave, 2022 was the deadliest year for Palestinians since the UN began documenting killings in 2005.

In the past two years, 557 Palestinians have been killed by settlers or Israeli forces.

Mariam Barghouti is the Senior Palestine Correspondent for Mondoweiss