Maureen Clare Murphy
The Electronic Intifada / June 19, 2023
Israeli occupation forces killed five Palestinians, including a child, after encountering fierce resistance during an hours-long raid in the northern West Bank city of Jenin on Monday.
Separately, Israeli troops shot 20-year-old Zakarya al-Zaoul in the head during confrontations in Husan village near the West Bank city of Bethlehem late Monday, killing him.
Meanwhile, two soldiers were injured and two Palestinians shot on Monday night after the latter allegedly accelerated a vehicle towards troops at a checkpoint near Jenin. One of the alleged Palestinian assailants was reported to be critically injured.
More than 90 Palestinians were injured during the daytime raid in Jenin on Monday, 23 of them seriously, according to the health ministry in the West Bank, including a 15-year-old girl in critical condition after she was struck by a bullet while in her home.
At least seven Israeli soldiers and Border Police officers were wounded during the raid, most of them injured by an explosive device targeting a military vehicle. Their injuries were reportedly light to moderate.
Even in a year in which Israeli forces have launched multiple deadly daytime raids in Palestinian cities, several in Jenin alone, Monday’s incursion, in which Israel sought to arrest two wanted men, marked an escalation.
Israel used a US-sourced Apache attack helicopter in the West Bank for the first time in two decades to facilitate the evacuation of the ambushed troops.
The helicopter was hit by Palestinian gunfire but remained operational. Several military vehicles, including a 10-ton Panther armored vehicle, were “incapacitated” by Palestinian resistance fighters.
‘Unusual and dramatic’
An Israeli military spokesperson said that the Panther and another military vehicle were hit by a “pretty advanced” improvised explosive device.
“It’s pretty unusual and dramatic. It will affect how we do business,” the spokesperson said, adding that troops came under a “massive amount of gunfire.”
Amir Bohbot, military correspondent for the Israeli news site Walla, remarked that the units that raided Jenin were “surprised today by the strength of the resistance.” He added that the “classic ambush” was reminiscent of the more advanced tactics of Hizballah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.
Multiple videos circulated online showing strong explosive devices detonating next to the military vehicles and the army coming under fire from multiple directions.
The armed wing of Hamas published a video showing its fighters testing explosive devices that it credited to its engineering unit in Jenin refugee camp:
Palestinian outlets circulated videos showing Israeli forces towing its destroyed military vehicles, including the Panther armored vehicle.
Israeli forces came under heavy fire while withdrawing the damaged vehicles:
Videos posted on social media showed Palestinians parading parts of the ambushed military vehicles through the streets of Jenin.
Hamas leader Abd al-Rahman Shadid said that the Israeli casualties and disabled military vehicles point to an evolution of the capabilities of resistance fighters in the West Bank.
Abu Hamza, the pseudonymous spokesperson for the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad resistance group, promised more surprises for occupation forces, so long as Israel continues its policy of assassinations and violating prisoners’ rights and the sanctity of holy sites.
The spokesperson credited the leadership of Tariq Izzedine, who helped oversee Islamic Jihad’s resistance activities in the West Bank from Gaza, where he was forcibly transferred by Israel in a prisoner release deal and killed in an airstrike along with two of his children last month.
Three of those killed during the raid in Jenin on Monday – Qassam Abu Sariya, 29, Qais Jabareen, 21, and Ahmad Daraghmeh – were reportedly affiliated with Islamic Jihad’s armed wing.
Video said to document the moment that Daraghmeh was shot appears to show that the young man was throwing stones towards troops before he was fatally injured.
Also killed was Khaled Azzam Asaaseh, 21, and 15-year-old Ahmad Yusif Saqer. Defense for Children International-Palestine said that the teen was shot in the stomach by troops who fired from the back of a military vehicle.
“This Israeli military incursion into Jenin happened in broad daylight—it is clear that Israeli forces feel confident in their ability to shoot and kill Palestinians, including children, with complete impunity,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, a program director with the children’s rights group.
Ahmad Saqer was holding stones and standing among a group of young Palestinians, some of whom allegedly lobbed homemade explosives towards the raiding troops, the rights group said.
His father told Al-Jazeera that “when the Israeli army raided, he ran towards them. He wanted to die after his friend Omar was killed.”
The slain child’s father may have been referring to Omar Awadin, a 14-year-old who was killed while riding his bike outside his parents’ shop during a raid by undercover forces in Jenin in March. Three other Palestinians were killed during the same raid.
Paramedics, journalists attacked
The Palestine Red Crescent Society said that one of its ambulances was deliberately hit by an Israeli military vehicle, obstructing the work of paramedics, during Monday’s raid.
Israeli forces also reportedly opened fire near a hospital.
Israeli troops injured journalist Hazem Nasser with live fire in his side – a year and a month after a military sniper shot and killed Al-Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh in Jenin.
Additional journalists came under fire during Monday’s raid.
Al-Haq, a Palestinian human rights group, blamed the deadly raid on the “international community’s deliberate failure to hold Israel accountable.”
The rights group noted that the number of Palestinians killed by Israel in the West Bank during the first five months of 2023 was more than double during the same period the previous year – which was the deadliest year for Palestinians in the territory since 2005.
Al-Haq added that around one-third of the 157 Palestinians killed in the West Bank last year were in the Jenin governorate, which has borne the brunt of an Israeli crackdown on resurgent armed resistance against occupation and settler colonization in the northern West Bank.
Tor Wennesland, the UN secretary-general’s Middle East envoy, said that Monday’s raid was an escalation that “threatened to plunge … deeper into a deadly crisis.”
Amos Harel, military correspondent for the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz, reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and allies “are considering a takeover” of the Jenin area, fearing that armed resistance will spread into other areas under nominal control of the increasingly weakened Palestinian Authority.
“The Israeli government has been pressuring the security forces to conduct a major military operation in the northern West Bank,” according to Harel.
“Those pressures have been growing in recent weeks amid a series of shooting attacks in the area and a campaign undertaken by the settler leadership demanding to resume control of the Jenin area.”
Harel added that the ultra-far-right “Bezalel Smotrich, who is finance minister and also shares responsibility for the West Bank at the Defense Ministry, has been adding to the pressure.”
Smotrich tweeted during Monday’s raid that “the time has come to replace the tweezers with a broader operation to eradicate the nests of terrorism in northern Samaria [the West Bank] and to restore deterrence and security.”
Netanyahu is reportedly warming up to the idea and “may also look on such an operation as an opportunity to divert the public’s and media’s attention away from the judicial overhaul, which has only brought him trouble and failure,” according to Harel.
Israel’s failed crackdown on armed resistance
More than a year of repeated raids in the Jenin area and episodic military offensives in Gaza over the past 15 years have failed to wipe out armed resistance, which has only become more sophisticated and disruptive to Israel over time.
Islamic Jihad leaders have said that armed resistance made the maintenance of settlements and military deployment inside the Gaza Strip too costly for Israel, leading to its unilateral withdrawal from the territory in 2005.
At least one Palestinian outlet compared Monday’s ambush of military vehicles in Jenin to the kind of resistance that led to the Gaza withdrawal.
While it won’t quell armed resistance, a major Israel military operation in the Jenin area would all but certainly bring mass casualties and devastation. At least 52 Palestinians and 23 Israeli soldiers were killed during Israel’s 2002 siege on Jenin refugee camp.
The Israeli military left “a landscape of ruin,” with “the smell of death” permeating the camp, according to a witness to the aftermath of the 11-day siege.
An Israeli military spokesperson hinted at reprisal assassinations of faction leaders after Monday’s raid in Jenin.
“It is too early to say if this incident will have consequences in Gaza,” Daniel Hagari, the spokesperson, said.
Last month, at least 33 Palestinians in Gaza were killed during five days of intense cross-boundary fire that began when Israel launched a surprise attack by assassinating three Islamic Jihad leaders in their homes.
Israel targeted and killed three more Islamic Jihad leaders in the following days. The resistance faction responded by firing hundreds of rockets toward central and southern Israel, killing two people in the country.
One of Islamic Jihad’s ceasefire demands was the cessation of assassinations.
Atta Abu Rmeileh, an official with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party, said that its fighters from nearby cities had participated in the fight in Jenin.
“We tell this occupation that all their operations are a failure, our people will win, and the dialogue between us will only be the battlefield,” Rmeileh added.
Hazem Qassem, a spokesperson for Hamas, said on Monday that “the threats by the occupation of the military operation will not stop the resistance in the West Bank.”
Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada