AP / July 6, 2023
TEL AVIV, Israel – The United Arab Emirates pledged Thursday to give $15 million to help rebuild the Jenin refugee camp after the most intense Israeli military operation in the occupied West Bank in nearly two decades.
The funding promise comes after the two-day offensive destroyed the camp’s narrow roads and alleyways. The operation, meant to crack down on Palestinian militants after a series of recent attacks on Israelis, sent thousands of people fleeing their homes. Twelve Palestinians and one Israeli soldier were killed in the fighting.
The UAE’s state-run WAM news agency reported that the money would be granted to UNRWA, the U.N. agency that assists Palestinian refugees, to rebuild damaged homes and businesses and for the agency’s services. UNRWA has struggled recently to raise the funding it needs to keep its day-to-day operations helping millions of people across the Middle East.
Israel’s fierce incursion this week saw bulldozers tearing through streets to clear a path for the hundreds of soldiers deployed. Israel withdrew its troops on Wednesday, revealing a scene of destruction.
Roads in the densely populated area of some 24,000 people were chewed up, with piles of broken asphalt, stones and rocks lying on the sides. Cars, some overturned on the sides of roads, were smashed and scorched.
UNRWA said some of its own facilities, including the windows and walls of a health center and the road leading up its school, sustained damage.
At a donor conference last month, UNRWA fundraising fell short of the $300 million it said was necessary to continue assisting Palestinians, with countries pledging just $107 million. The shortfall came even after the United Nations chief said UNRWA “is on the verge of financial collapse.”
Israel launched the invasion in the camp, long known as a bastion of Palestinian militants, on Monday, saying its goal was to destroy and confiscate weapons. It carried out airstrikes and sent in hundreds of troops in an operation that was reminiscent of the bloody period two decades ago known as the second intifada, or Palestinian uprising against Israel’s open-ended occupation.
Some of the scenes from Jenin, including massive army bulldozers tearing through camp alleys, were eerily similar to those from a major Israeli incursion in 2002, which lasted for eight days and became known as the battle of Jenin.
The operations, two decades apart, were meant to crush militant groups in the camp and deter and prevent attacks on Israelis. In each case, the army claimed success, only to be dragged into new cycles of military raids and Palestinian attacks.
Many Palestinians see the actions of the gunmen as an inevitable result of 56 years of occupation and the absence of any political process with Israel. They also point to increased West Bank Jewish settlement construction and violence by extremist Jewish settlers.
The large-scale raid comes amid a more than yearlong spike in violence that has created a challenge for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government. His coalition is dominated by ultranationalists who have called for tougher action against Palestinian militants only to see the fighting worsen.
Over 140 Palestinians have been killed this year in the West Bank, and Palestinian attacks targeting Israelis have killed at least 25 people, including a shooting last month that killed four settlers.
Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians seek those territories for their hoped-for independent state.