Middle East Eye / July 4, 2023
Shelling and fighting continues following deadly Israeli raid, as Palestinian businesses begin general strike.
Shelling and fighting continued in the early hours of the morning, with Israeli warplanes sighted in the occupied West Bank city and a series of explosions heard in Al-Damej neighbourhood, according to local media.
Jenin residents were pictured fleeing as tear gas cannisters were launched from above by Israeli forces.
Columns of smoke were visible, and drones were seen flying over Jenin refugee camp, in what appeared to be a relative lull in fighting compared to Monday.
Monday’s offensive, which involved drones, Apache attack helicopters, and ground forces including army bulldozers, was widely described as one of the worst Israeli attacks on Jenin in two decades.
The death toll has now risen to ten, after a Palestinian wounded on Monday was confirmed dead overnight, and the body of a man hit by Israeli fire was found in the morning. At least 100 others were wounded.
Around 3,000 Palestinian civilians fled their homes in the Jenin refugee camp on Monday night, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.
Kamal Abu al-Roub, deputy governor of Jenin, told AFP that arrangements were being made to house them in schools and other shelters across the city.
Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanebi indicated that the assault was nearing its end, telling Kan Radio on Tuesday that the operation was “close to completing the achievement of the goal set”.
Palestinian businesses were shut on Tuesday, in response to a call for a general strike to protest against the deadly offensive.
Debris and burned roadblocks from Monday’s attacks filled the quiet streets in the morning, as a handful of residents walked around and surveyed the destruction.
An official at the Jenin Government Hospital said the attack was one of the worst in years, adding: “We have not received this number of serious injuries since 2002.”
A local resident told Middle East Eye that the buildings shelled belonged to civilians, and included the Freedom Theatre, a popular cultural centre in the city.
Hafeth Abu Sabra, an eyewitness from Jenin refugee camp, described scenes of horror in the city’s street.
He said Israeli forces were destroying infrastructure and public property as snipers were stationed inside armoured vehicles and on rooftops, firing live rounds at unarmed Palestinians standing near the camp’s entrance.
“Two civilians were directly hit in front me,” Abu Sabra told MEE as the sound of sniper gunshots were heard in the background during the interview.
The attack prompted condemnation from the Arab and Muslim-majority world, with Egypt, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates all criticizing Israel’s actions.
Lynn Hastings, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Palestine, said she was “alarmed by the scale of Israeli forces’ operation” in Jenin.
For the past two years, Israel has increased deadly raids on Jenin, killing more than 100 Palestinians from the northern West Bank city since 2022.
The latest raid two weeks ago killed at least six people but faced fierce Palestinian resistance, with the military deploying Apache attack helicopters to evacuate army vehicles stuck for hours in an ambush set by local fighters.
Two days later, an Israeli drone killed three Palestinians near Jenin, in the first aerial attack in the occupied West Bank in nearly 20 years.
The Jenin camp, which lies at the heart of the city, is half a square kilometre in size and home to some 13,000 refugees.
In 2002, Israel launched a 10-day military campaign in the city that killed at least 52 Palestinians and laid waste to its camp, destroying hundreds of civilian homes and displacing thousands.