‘A mix of sorrow and anger’ – Palestinians in Jenin speak after Israel’s massacre

Qassam Muaddi

The New Arab  /  January 27, 2023

“Majida was worried for the young, and couldn’t help but come out to her balcony to see what was happening, without knowing that there was an occupation sniper on a building looking directly at her house”.

“Blood stains in the streets and the smell of burning is on every corner.”

A Palestinian resident of the Jenin refugee camp described the scene after the Israeli military attack on Jenin on Thursday, in which Israeli forces killed nine Palestinians including one elderly woman.

The raid began early in the morning with special Israeli forces entering the camp under cover, and soon turned to a gun battle with Palestinian fighters, according to residents.

“Early in the morning, a little girl from the camp came across a strange dairy truck, and a man in the truck asked her about the house of a man who is wanted by the occupation,” Najat Butmeh, director of the women’s and children’s center in the Jenin refugee camp, told The New Arab.

“Shortly after, young men in the camp recognized the truck as an undercover occupation vehicle, and fighters engaged it with gunfire,” said Butmeh.

“The fighting was very intense and people began to run to their homes for cover, as the occupation brought more troops into the camp, and as always, they had placed snipers on the rooftops overlooking the camp,” Butmeh added.

Her neighbour, 61-year-old Majida Obeid, one of the first victims of the raid.

“Majida was worried for the young, and couldn’t help but come out to her balcony to see what was happening.  without knowing that there was an occupation sniper on a building looking directly at her house, who shot her dead”, she added.

Obeid’s daughter told Palestinian media that her mother was fasting from the night before, and that when the battle started she became worried that there might be a new victim, which led her to come out onto the balcony.

Another civilian who was killed in the early minutes of the raid was 26-year-old Ezedin Salahat, who was trying to provide help to the wounded, according to Najat Butmeh.

“Ezedin was in the street calling out for help, because there were many wounded and the ambulance couldn’t reach them from outside the camp”, said Butmeh. “Some people were using ordinary cars to drive the wounded out of the camp, and Ezedin was calling for one in an open space, exposed to sniper fire, and he was shot”.

“As soon as the occupation forces withdrew I went to Ezedin’s house, and found his mother completely devastated, with women from the camp surrounding her, trying to comfort her”, said Butmeh.

The Palestinian health ministry said in a statement that Salahat died of his wounds, as Israeli forces blocked the exits from the Jenin camp while he was being transported to the Ibn Sina hospital in Jenin city.

Salahat was a member of the Palestinian police and played in the police’s football club. According to Palestinian sources, Salahat played with several local football teams, as well as the Palestinian national Olympic football team.

Among the victims were two brothers, 25-year-old Nour Ghneim and 28-year-old Mohammad Ghneim. The two were targeted by Israeli forces who fired ground missiles at the house they were in.

Their mother, who lives in the neighboring village of Burqin, told Palestinian media that the Israeli army called her and told her that her two sons were surrounded.

“The occupation told me to ask my sons to surrender, and I tried to go to Jenin to reach my sons, but the occupation soldiers didn’t let me through”, she said. “The occupation had detained my husband in the past for ten days to pressure my sons to surrender. Today they killed both of them, I thank God that they didn’t surrender”.

Late in the afternoon, thousands of Palestinians took part in the funeral of the nine victims in Jenin, as protests broke out across the West Bank, with protesters confronting Israeli forces in several locations. A general strike was also observed in all West Bank cities and school classes were suspended for the day.

“The situation in Jenin is undescribably difficult”, said Najat Butmeh. “There is a general feeling of sorrow and anger everywhere, mixed with the feeling that it’s not yet over, and that more occupation raids are to come”, she stressed.

The Palestinian foreign ministry condemned the Israeli killing of nine Palestinians in Jenin in a statement, calling it “a brutal aggression”, and demanding that the international community “intervene to limit this vulgar escalation which carries with it dangerous consequences for security in the region”.

The spokesperson for the Palestinian presidency spokesperson, Nabil Abu Rdeineh also announced in a press conference in Ramallah that the PA’s security coordination with Israel “is from this moment no longer in place,” in response to the killings in Jenin.

With the nine killed in Jenin on Thursday, the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces since the beginning of the year rises to 29, making January’s toll one of the highest ever monthly death tolls for Palestinians.

Qassam Muaddi is The New Arab’s correspondent in the West Bank