Jack Khoury, Jonathan Lis and Hagar Shezaf report in Haaretz on 26 January 2023:
The Palestinian Authority announced it was halting its security coordination with Israel on Thursday following a deadly raid in the Jenin refugee camp that killed 10 Palestinians.
Similar announcements were made in the past but Palestinian moves to suspend this coordination have been short-lived, in part due to U.S. and Israeli pressure to maintain it.
The gun battle erupted when the Israeli army entered the Jenin refugee camp – a flashpoint area in the West Bank – on Thursday to arrest people suspected of planning a terror attack on Israelis, according to the IDF. Nine Palestinians, including a 60-year-old woman were killed in the raid and 20 others were wounded. Another Palestinian died in clashes that continued on Thursday evening.
Egypt issued a statement on Thursday condemning the “invasion of the Israeli forces” and called Israel to “immediately stop the attacks on Palestinian cities in a manner that threatens the situation in the West Bank to get out of control.” The Egyptian Foreign Ministry stated that “these attacks add more tension and feelings of injustice among the Palestinian people, and frustrate all efforts to revive the peace process and implement the two-state solution.”
Barbara Leaf, the top U.S. State Department official for the Middle East, called the civilian casualties in Jenin “regrettable,” adding that Washington is seeking additional understanding on the raid and urging de-escalation.
Hamas’ armed wing claimed four of the dead as members, while Islamic Jihad said three others belonged to the group. Senior officials in Hamas and Islamic Jihad threatened on Thursday to respond to the clashes.
“The occupation will pay a price for the massacre carried out this morning, and the response of the resistance forces will not be late in coming,” said Saleh al-Arouri, the deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau in the West Bank. He called on Palestinian forces in the West Bank to respond and attack with all the means they have.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh called on the United Nations and international human rights organizations “to intervene immediately to stop the massacre against the Palestinian people.” Shtayyeh called on the International Red Cross to intervene to evacuate the casualties and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared three days of mourning.
Daoud Shihab, the spokesman for Palestinian Islamic Jihad, warned Israel of “an open campaign from Gaza too as a result of the massacre in Jenin. It is impossible to let what happened in Jenin this morning pass quietly, and Israel bears full responsibility for the all the developments and escalation.”
Ziyad al-Nakhalah, secretary-general of Islamic Jihad said that “Today is a day of jihad, and a day of fighting for the Palestinian people’s cause. The aggression and attacks against the Palestinian people will not stop the resistance, our forces will continue to be on the ground and fight the enemy…We will not break and we will not back down despite the pain. Our weapons are ready to fight to protect the Palestinian people.”
Following the clashes, the IDF said it was preparing for a possible response from the Gaza Strip and is examining reinforcing the Iron Dome. IDF Chief of Staff Herzl Halevi ordered raising the level of readiness and the continuation of operations to prevent terror attacks after conducting a situation assessment, the IDF Spokesperson reported.
Later on Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel is looking to avoid an escalation after a situation assessment in which he instructed security forces to prepare for “every scenario” to ensure the safety of Israelis.
Hadash-Ta’al, an Arab-Israeli party in the Knesset, responded to the events in Jenin saying, “This is a murderous massacre that joins the fact that 30 Palestinians have been killed by the occupation forces since the beginning of the year,” adding that “the current government is competing with its predecessor over who is more lethal,” and called for international intervention to “stop the bloodshed.”
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the spokesman for Abbas, called the military operation a “massacre carried out by the Israeli occupation government, in the shadow of worrying international silence. This silence encourages the government to carry out massacres against the Palestinian people.”
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said that if “the international community and the American administration do not intervene immediately against the Israeli killing machine, then when?”
Tor Wennesland, the United Nations Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process released a statement saying, “I am deeply alarmed and saddened by the continuing cycle of violence in the occupied West Bank. The deaths today of nine Palestinians, including militants and one woman, during an Israeli arrest operation in Jenin is another stark example.” Since the beginning of the year he added, “We are continuing to witness high levels of violence and other negative trends that characterized 2022. It is crucial to reduce tensions immediately and prevent more loss of life. I urge, and remain actively engaged with, Israeli and Palestinian authorities to de-escalate tensions, restore calm, and avoid further conflict.”
According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, in addition to the nine dead, there are at least 20 people who were wounded in the incident, among them four in serious condition. Israeli sources estimate the death toll at around nine.
The Health Ministry identified three of the dead, including 24-year-old Sayeb Azariki, Izzidin Salahat and 60-year-old Magda Obaid.
Armed militants affiliated with the Jenin Brigade, a loose affiliation of militants from several organizations in the West Bank, said that they had opened fire at Israeli soldiers, both with gunfire and improvised explosives.
The Israeli army later confirmed the events, saying that its forces “were active in the Jenin refugee camp” and were looking for terror suspects connected to the Islamic Jihad. Three of them were “neutralized” during an exchange of gunfire, the army confirmed.
An additional suspect barricaded himself in a building, and the army shot and killed two additional suspects that attempted to escape from the building. One of the suspects turned himself over to the IDF.
A senior army official told Haaretz that the high number of casualties in the clashes in the Jenin refugee camp – which currently stands at nine dead and about twenty wounded – is due to the “threat level against troops,” and not due to a change in policy. The suspects were previously involved in planning and executing shooting attacks on Israeli targets, he said. According to the official, the level of force used was proportionate and if the soldiers had thought there was a need for air power, they would have used that.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
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