Al-Jazeera / January 27, 2023
Operation in occupied West Bank generates defiance in Gaza, but could it lead to another war ?
Gaza City – A deadly Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank has provoked grief and anger in Gaza. Rockets have been fired into Israel, and hundreds of Palestinians have taken part in vigils and rallies to condemn what they describe as a “massacre”.
After nine Palestinians were killed in Israel’s raid on Thursday in Jenin, armed groups in Gaza declared a state of high alert, calling the incursion “a new Israeli crime” against the Palestinian people.
Following the announcement, two rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel, an attack claimed by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. They were shot down early on Friday by Israel’s Iron Dome air defence system, and Israel carried out air attacks on locations in Gaza that it said are used by armed groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Khader Habib, an Islamic Jihad spokesperson, said in statement that the Palestinian people had been “subjected to unprecedented killings and attacks by the new Israeli government in all parts of the West Bank amid the complete absence of international intervention”.
“As long as the Palestinian people are alone in confrontation, we have no options but to resist with all that we have as the only way to defend ourselves,” Habib said.
Israel had not carried out a raid on the scale of its operation in Jenin in years, but it is part of intensified military incursions by the Israeli army into the occupied West Bank, which have killed at least 200 Palestinians in the past year.
Hisham al-Hato, who took part in a protest march in Gaza, said he was sending his “support and solidarity” to Jenin.
“We are very sad and angry,” al-Hato told Al-Jazeera. “The Israeli crimes against our people in the West Bank must stop. Gaza and the West Bank are one heart.”
Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem told Al-Jazeera that what had happened in Jenin was “a war crime”.
“The occupation’s crimes will not go unpunished nor will it succeed in breaking the will of our Palestinian people,” Qassem said as concern about an escalation in the conflict grew.
Possibility of further conflict
Reham Owda, a political analyst based in Gaza, told Al Jazeera that a major escalation is unlikely despite Palestinian factions threatening to respond to the raid in Jenin.
“I think the factions’ responses are moral responses,” Owda said. “They are still adopting a policy of restraint as they do not want to divert attention from the West Bank to Gaza.”
While Israel carried out a three-day assault on Gaza in August, which killed at least 49 people, most of the focus in the past 12 months has been on the occupied West Bank.
Owda says factions might occasionally carry out limited responses to Israeli actions in the West Bank, but she predicted Egyptian and Qatari mediation would likely contain the situation.
Gaza still has not rebuilt from previous wars with Israel, and many residents along with Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, want to avoid another conflict.
“The factions want to focus on showing the spirit of popular resistance in the West Bank represented by the military groups that are active in Nablus and Jenin,” Owda said. “They do not want to bring Gaza back into the [centre of events] as usually happens.”
Still, tensions are high. Mass rallies and other events are planned on Friday in Gaza to mourn the deaths in Jenin. Crowds in central Gaza have angrily condemned the killings.
Dozens of Palestinians also approached the fence that separates Gaza City from Israel, where they set tyres on fire.
Demonstrator Uday Habib told Al-Jazeera that Israel “only understands the language of force”.
“It is difficult to remain silent in the face of these crimes, and we in Gaza are calling on the resistance to respond and for the protests to escalate, even if we pay the price again,” Habib said.
“Gaza will not abandon Jenin despite the siege [on Gaza] and all the worries we suffer from here,” he said. “It is true that we are afraid of a new war, but the options are narrow for us. The occupation still continues its aggressions. Should we just keep silent?”
Maram Humaid is a Palestinian journalist and storyteller from the Gaza Strip