Co-founder of Jenin Brigade succumbs to wounds sustained in Jenin massacre

Mariam Barghouti

Mondoweiss  /  January 29, 2023

Omar al-Saadi, one of the founders of the armed resistance group, the Jenin Brigade, succumbed to wounds sustained during Israel’s military onslaught on Jenin refugee camp, bringing the massacre’s death toll to 10.

On Saturday, January 28, Karam Ali Salman, 18, was shot and killed by an armed Jewish settler near the illegal Jewish settlement of Kedumim outside Nablus. This also came after a day of protest and resistance by Palestinians on Friday following the killings in Jenin.

In addition to Salman, another Palestinian, 24-year-old Omar al-Saadi, succumbed to wounds sustained during confrontations with the Israeli military on Thursday, January 26. Al-Saadi had been shot with a bullet to the abdomen during the Israeli raid on the camp, which targeted a military cell in the camp and led to the massacre of 9 Palestinians (a tenth Palestinian was killed on the same day during clashes with the Israeli army in al-Ram outside Jerusalem). Al-Saadi’s death brings the total number of Palestinians killed during that raid to 10.

Al-Saadi is one of the founders of the Jenin Brigade, a resistance group that came into being in 2021 but gained prominence throughout 2022 amid the resurgence of armed resistance in the West Bank last year. The Brigade is an umbrella group that encompasses various political factions, including Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and Al-Quds Brigades, the military wings of Fatah, and the Islamic Jihad movement, respectively.

In a statement on January 29, Al-Quds Brigades proclaimed that Al-Saadi’s death “will only add to our determination and our will.” 

“The slain blood will turn into fuel, which will add to the embers of resistance, and its flames will spread to all fronts,” the statement continued. 

Concluding with a vow to continue resistance until liberation, the statement was signed by the Jenin Brigade, an indication that the statement was backed by all of the camp’s political factions.

The death of Al-Saadi brings the number of Palestinians killed in the first month of 2023 to 32.

The imprisoned lives of resistance fighters

On Sunday, Israeli forces moved the political detainee Sami Ghuneim to administrative detention, where he will be imprisoned without charge or trial. Ghuneim’s two sons, Noor, 25, and Mohammad, 28, were killed during the bloody raid on Jenin last Thursday. His third son, Ahmad Ghuneim, was critically injured and remains in the hospital as of the time of writing. 

There are currently more than 4,700 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel, 835 of whom are imprisoned arbitrarily. This practice is deemed illegal under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

It is also a constant feature of Palestinian life, and many of the resistance fighters from the Jenin Brigade are former prisoners. Al-Saadi himself was imprisoned for three years. 

The Palestinian prisoner movement continues to act as an inspiration for the growth of armed Palestinian resistance. Al-Saadi is the nephew of Shaikh Bassam al-Saadi, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) leader who was arrested from Jenin refugee camp in August of last year during Operation Break the Wave

Since 2021, Israeli prison authorities have escalated raids on prison cells, tear gassing detainees and instituting punitive practices that violate the rights of political detainees.

Military and settler retribution

The Israeli military has justified the large-scale aggressions and extra-judicial assassinations of last year — centering mainly in Jenin refugee camp, Balata refugee camp, and the Old City of Nablus — under the pretext of targeting Palestinian fighters and as a strategic form of “deterrence.”

Palestinian resistance has only grown in response to this strategy.

This was made especially clear last Friday, January 27, when Khairi Alqam, a 21-year-old from Jerusalem, shot and killed seven Jewish settlers in the illegal Jewish settlement of Neve Yaacov in East Jerusalem. Immediately after the shooting attack in Jerusalem, a settler went to the entrance of the village of Beita near Nablus and opened fire on Palestinian youth, injuring three Palestinians.

Although a clear retaliation to the Jerusalem shooting, Beita has specifically been the target of increased settler attacks for years, in an attempt to expand settlements to Sbeih Mountain, which belongs to the residents of Beita. In July of last year, after the killing of 16-year-old Amjad Abu Alia, Palestinian witnesses to the incident noted that the fatal shot came from an armed settler and warned that these kinds of fatal settler attacks have become increasingly frequent, and would only continue to grow. 

Indeed, 2022 saw a rise in settler violence to record heights

This year has only seen a further increase in this trend. On Saturday, January 28, more than 144 settler attacks were recorded in the Nablus district alone, according to the Palestinian official responsible for the settlements file in the West Bank, Ghassan Daghlas. These attacks were concentrated in Huwwara and Madama.

Moreover, in the wake of the Jerusalem attack, the Israeli government is looking to push forward legislation to further loosen gun laws that would arm settlers. This is part of a broader sweeping range of punitive legal measures the Netanyahu government is considering in light of the attack.

Mariam Barghouti is the Senior Palestine Correspondent for Mondoweiss