Israeli forces kill 6 Palestinians, assassinate fighters in Jenin camp with ‘suicide drones’

Yumna Patel

Mondoweiss  /  September 20, 2023

Israeli forces killed six Palestinians overnight between Tuesday and Wednesday, with four Palestinians killed and dozens of others injured in a military operation in the Jenin refugee camp, and two others killed in Gaza and Jericho.

Clashes erupted at around 8 p.m. Tuesday night after local fighters in the Jenin refugee camp uncovered a group of special Israeli forces that were raiding the area. Israeli special forces, followed by military reinforcements, surrounded the home of Muhammad Abu Albahaa, a former prisoner and member of Fatah’s military wing. Israeli forces began bombarding the home with live ammunition and anti-tank missiles, while fighters in the area fired back with live fire and the use of explosives. 

The armed wings of a number of factions in the camp, including Islamic Jihad, Fatah, and Hamas, all released statements saying their fighters were engaged in heavy confrontations to push back Israeli forces.

According to local witnesses, the first Palestinian who was killed Tuesday night in the Jenin camp was Rafat Khamayseh, 22, reported to be a member of the armed resistance in the camp. Khamayseh was reportedly the first fighter to be targeted by the army with live ammunition, alerting the surrounding residents and fighters to the presence of the special forces.  

“We were sitting here by the entrance [of the camp] when the army came, spreading out in different directions,” Yousef al-Sheikh Qassem, a local eyewitness, told Mondoweiss. “One of the soldiers started to shoot at one of the guys, and for that reason, they found them out in a matter of seconds,” Qassem said, referring to Khamaseyh. 

Local journalists told Mondoweiss that Khamayseh was left to bleed out on the ground for around one and a half hours as Israeli forces prevented ambulances from accessing the camp to treat the injured. 

Amid the confrontations, the Israeli military deployed a Rafael SPIKE FireFly loitering munition, or a “suicide drone,” into the middle of the camp, where a number of resistance fighters were deployed. The drone landed between 23-year-old Mahmoud al-Sa’di and 24-year-old Mahmoud Ararawi and subsequently exploded, killing both of them. 

The Israeli army operation lasted around two hours. As Israeli troops were pulling out of the camp, the convoy was targeted with an IED, causing significant damage to an Israeli military vehicle. According to the Israeli army, troops were sent back in later that night to retrieve the damaged vehicle. 

A fourth Palestinian from the Jenin camp succumbed to his wounds overnight. The Ministry of Health identified him as 29-year-old Atta Yasser Musa. In total, at least 30 Palestinians were injured during the raid. No Israeli soldiers were reported wounded in the operation. 

According to local reports, the target of the military’s offensive, Muhammad Abu Albahaa, managed to evade arrest and assassination by the Israeli military. 

Following the raid, the Jenin Brigade, the local coalition of resistance groups in the camp, released a statement saying: “The Jenin Brigade and all the factions of resistance in Jenin camp, city, and its surroundings stand united in defense of our people and our nation with all our strength and determination, regardless of cost and sacrifices.”

Tuesday’s raid on the Jenin camp is the latest in the Israeli military’s ongoing offensive targeting resistance groups in the camp, which, despite efforts by both Israel and the PA, have continued to operate out of the camp and its surrounding areas. Last July, the army conducted its largest operation on the camp since 2002, killing 12 Palestinians and injuring dozens of others. 

“Whoever wants to do a study on the assassinations that the Israeli occupation conducts has to visit Jenin refugee camp. This occupation has left no stone unturned in its invention of new ways to eradicate the resistance in Jenin,” Dr. Jamal Hweil, a political figure in the camp who is a veteran of the 2002 Battle of Jenin and a member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council, told Mondoweiss

Hweil emphasized that the young resistance fighters, most of them in their early twenties, “have remained a step ahead of the occupation. The occupation plots and schemes, but the resistance also plans on how to repel the onslaught.”

“Jenin refugee camp is half a square kilometer with modest capabilities and light weapons, and local handmade [IEDs], standing against a nuclear state that possesses nuclear weapons, advanced aircraft, ballistic, cruise, and tomahawk missiles, an intelligence cyber dome that surveils every neighborhood, alleyway, and person in Jenin refugee camp. Yet our heroes, with their modest means, their preparations, their national unity, and their cohesion with the people, can make a difference.”

Two more Palestinians killed in West Bank, Gaza

Earlier on Tuesday, a young Palestinian man was killed by Israeli fire along the border fence with Gaza, the Palestinian health ministry confirmed. Yousif Radwan, 25, was protesting near the border fence in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis district when he was shot in the head by an Israeli sniper. He was transferred to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly after. During Tuesday’s protests, at least nine other Palestinians were also injured by Israeli fire. 

Ridwan is the seventh Palestinian in Gaza to be killed along the Gaza border over the past two weeks. Protests along the border have been growing as young Palestinians, many of whom formerly participated in the Great March of Return protests, have sent out calls for Gazans to take to the border lines to protest against Israel’s ongoing violence against Palestinians, Israel’s crackdown on Palestinian political prisoners, and increased settler incursions into the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem. The protests have swelled significantly following the killing of five young men last week in an explosion along the border fence, and the group of protestors calling for the protests are going by the name of “the Revolutionary Youth.” 

Also on Tuesday, a Palestinian teenager was shot and killed by Israeli forces in the Aqbat Jaber refugee camp in Jericho. 19-year-old Durgham al-Akhras was killed in an Israeli army raid on the camp. The army released a statement claiming that he was throwing an explosive toward the invading soldiers when he was shot and killed.

Aqbat Jaber has become the target of increased Israeli military raids since the start of 2023, as the refugee camp has witnessed a resurgence of armed resistance with the establishment of the Aqbat Jaber brigade.

With the killing of the six Palestinians on Tuesday, the total number of Palestinians killed by Israel since the start of the year has reportedly reached 240.

Yumna Patel is the Palestine News Director for Mondoweiss

Mohammad Abed contributed to this report from Jenin; Tareq Hajjaj contributed to this report from Gaza.