Israeli forces kill four Palestinians in Jenin raid

AFP  /  March 17, 2023

Army says troops ‘neutralized’ two suspected militants in occupied northern West Bank city.

Israeli forces have killed four Palestinians, including a teenager, in the occupied West Bank, in the latest deadly raid on Jenin that Israel said targeted armed suspects.

Dozens of heavily armed masked men fired into the air as they walked through the streets during the funerals of the four dead, including two who Palestinian groups and the Israeli army identified as militants.

The Israeli army initially said troops “neutralized” two suspected militants in the northern West Bank city, accusing them of terrorist activities.

An army spokesperson added: “Armed gunmen fired at the forces and the forces responded with live fire.” One of those killed “was neutralized after attempting to attack the forces with a crowbar”.

The Palestinian health ministry said 23 others had been wounded in the raid, five seriously. It identified those killed as Omar Awadin, 16, Luay al-Zughair, 37, Nidal Khazim, 28 and Youssef Shreem, 29.

Islamic Jihad claimed Khazim as one of its members, and Hamas’s armed wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, said Shreem belonged to their group. The Israeli statement claimed they were both Islamic Jihad members.

Islamic Jihad said Israel would “pay the price for these crimes”.

Mahmoud al-Saadi, of the Palestinian Red Crescent in Jenin, said: “An Israeli undercover unit stormed the city centre’s Abu Bakr street.”

The raid comes days before a meeting between Palestinian and Israeli officials on Sunday in the Egyptian city Sharm el-Sheikh aimed at reducing tensions before Ramadan.

The Islamist movement Hamas, which rules in the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip, called the raid a “crime … that would not go unanswered”.

Israeli forces have launched numerous raids on the city of Jenin and its eponymous refugee camp in recent months that have targeted Palestinian militants. More than 20 Palestinians have been killed in these raids since the start of the year.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since the six-day war in 1967.

The UN decried “another example of the alarming cycle of violence”, with a spokesperson for the UN secretary-general António Guterres urging the international community to “redouble its efforts to find an end to this cycle of violence”.

Sinan Majali, a spokesperson for the Jordanian foreign ministry, called for an immediate end to the escalation and emphasized the need to protect Palestinian cities from “these repeated and continuous assaults”.

So far this year 85 Palestinian adults and children, including militants and civilians, have been killed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Thirteen Israeli adults and children, including members of the security forces and civilians, and one Ukrainian civilian have been killed over the same period, according to an tally by Agence France-Presse based on official sources on both sides.

On Tuesday, a senior Hamas official warned Israel his group would react to any possible “violations” at Jerusalem’s holy sites during Ramadan, which begins this month.

Saleh al-Aruri, the deputy head of Hamas’s political bureau, said the risk of escalation “depends on the Israeli occupation’s violations across Palestine and at Al-Aqsa mosque” in annexed east Jerusalem.

Al-Aqsa, a Jordan-administered compound, is the third holiest site in Islam. It is built on top of what Jews call the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site.