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Jenin refugee camp residents defiant after deadly Israeli assault | Israel-Palestine conflict News

Jenin refugee camp, occupied West Bank – In the area where Umm Yousif lived, almost every house and car was riddled with bullets and windows smashed in what the locals call a “massacre”.

Children here play not with balloons but with bullet casings strewn across the narrow streets and adjacent rooftops after Thursday’s deadly Israeli raid on the Jenin refugee camp.

“What we experienced was not normal. There was no safe place,” Umm Yousif told Al Jazeera the day after the attack, the deadliest in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in years.

“All the windows in my house are broken. We were lying on the floor for two hours, and the sounds of explosions were heard above our heads, ”said the 47-year-old mother of four children.

“We were expecting death any second.”

Nine residents, including two children, were killed in an Israeli attack that brought back memories of 2002, when another large-scale raid and clashes turned Jenin into a symbol of Palestinian resistance. A tenth person died of his wounds on Sunday, and several more remain in hospital after being wounded by live ammunition.

According to local residents, five of the 10 Palestinians killed were armed resistance fighters, while five others were unarmed civilians.

During the raid, Israeli forces in a military vehicle hit and killed a 16-year-old child, according to a civil society group. The 61-year-old mother of six was also shot through her bedroom window after she had just finished praying.

Palestinian officials said Israeli forces also fired on ambulances preventing them from advancing to treat the wounded and fired tear gas in the direction of the Jenin government hospital, which leaked into the children’s ward, which Israeli officials deny was intentional.

The grandson of 61-year-old Majida Obeid, who was killed in the raid, plays with a bullet found outside in an alleyway of their house.
The grandson of 61-year-old Majida Obeid, who was killed in the raid, plays with a shell casing found outside in an alleyway of their house. [Zena Al Tahhan/Al Jazeera]

“Back to 2002”

The largest Israeli military raid on the Jenin refugee camp in over 20 years occurred just before 7 am (0500 GMT).

According to CCTV footage, Israeli covert forces dressed as civilians drove into the camp in private vehicles with Palestinian license plates.

Shortly thereafter, they were supported by dozens of soldiers who made their way into the camp in a large Palestinian dairy truck.

In a joint operation with Israeli intelligence and police, the army surrounded a house in the area of ​​the Joret al-Dahab camp, where three resistance fighters were hiding, and launched a surprise attack using anti-tank rockets and explosives.

The house was almost completely destroyed and caught fire. The men inside, Mohammad Soboh, aged 30, and the brothers Nur al-Din and Mohammad Ghneim, aged 28 and 25, respectively, were killed.

Another fighter, 21-year-old Izz al-Din Salahat, was shot dead in the street near his home while returning fire on soldiers.

Armed clashes with Palestinian militants ensued for hours before Israeli forces retreated, leaving a trail of blood and destruction in their wake, as well as inflicting heavy casualties on residents.

“In 2002, 50 Palestinians were martyred within 13 days. On Thursday, we had nine martyrs in one day,” Mahmoud Salaun, 28, told Al Jazeera.

“They put us in a state of terror. The army fired right and left – everyone was targeted – from children to the elderly, ”he said.

The Israeli military justified the operation, saying the raid was planned to apprehend Islamic Jihad fighters.

A destroyed house where three prominent Palestinian militants were hiding when Israel fired surface-to-air missiles at it, causing it to also burst into flames.
View from a destroyed house in the Jenin refugee camp [Zena Al Tahhan/Al Jazeera]

The Jenin refugee camp is home to more than 22,000 Palestinians who were expelled from their original homes in 1948 during the Nakba, or catastrophe, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by Zionist militias to establish the State of Israel.

On April 9, 2002, during the second massive Palestinian uprising (intifada), Israeli forces, supported by fighter jets, invaded the camp with more than 150 armored tanks and bulldozers. Fighting with resistance fighters continued for more than 10 days, during which at least 52 Palestinian civilians and militants and 23 Israeli soldiers were killed.

During this raid, the Israeli army destroyed over 400 houses and severely damaged hundreds of others, displacing over a quarter of the camp’s population, which was later rebuilt by the United Nations.

“It took me back 20 years to when I was a kid. It was like an invasion,” Ahmad Musa, 35, told Al Jazeera of the raid on Thursday.

The walls of his house and his car are riddled with bullets.

“They shot at unarmed people, destroyed property with tractors, Energa grenades,” said Musa, who lives in the same house with 14 family members, including seven children.

Another resident, Diana Crainy, a mother of five, said her home was hit by bullets from three different directions, penetrating her salon and the children’s bedrooms.

“I don’t care about the house or me. I take care of my children. I’m just glad that my children are safe – they could have been killed,” the 35-year-old woman said in a strained voice, trying to hold back her tears.

“Occupation soldiers were shooting right at me through the window when I tried to push back the curtain,” she told Al Jazeera.

While the policies of the Palestinian Authority and Israel after the end of the second intifada in 2005 largely led to the dissolution of the armed resistance in the occupied West Bank, the militants in Jenin began to reorganize after a popular Palestinian uprising in May 2021, which began with protests in Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem and witnessed yet another Israeli bombardment of the besieged Gaza Strip.

The creation of the Jenin Brigades, a small group of inter-factional fighters focused on containing Israeli forces and protecting the camp, has resulted in similar groups appearing in a number of towns, villages and refugee camps in the north of the occupied West Bank. has been trying to crush Palestinians with almost daily raids and killings for more than a year now.

Children of Diana Kreini, whose house was hit by bullets from several directions during the raid
Children of Diana Crane, whose house was hit by bullets from several directions during the raid [Zena Al Tahhan/Al Jazeera]

Serious escalation

The effects of last week’s attack were felt not only in the camp, but also in the territories occupied in 1967.

Officials from the Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad group told Al Jazeera they were “ready for anything,” hinting at the possibility of another war in the Gaza Strip, which has suffered five large-scale Israeli attacks in the past 15 years. killed thousands of Palestinians.

On Friday, a Palestinian, 21-year-old Khairy Alkam, launched a shooting that killed seven Israelis in an illegal Jewish settlement in occupied East Jerusalem built on land taken from the Palestinian neighborhoods of Beit Hanina, Hizma and Al-Al-Khanina. Ram.

On Saturday, another shooting took place in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem, in which two Israelis were injured.

The attacks, which came after a year of increased Israeli military and settler violence that resulted in 2022 being the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since 2005, set off a chain of events that led to a major escalation in the situation.

Since Thursday, Israeli forces have killed three more Palestinians in al-Ramah, Silwan and Hebron, including a 17-year-old child, and wounded dozens of others with live ammunition in clashes in the West Bank.

Israeli settlers have also carried out dozens of attacks against Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank over the past few days, including shooting and injuring residents with live ammunition and setting houses and cars on fire.

Since early January 2023, at least 35 Palestinians, including eight children, have been killed by the Israeli army and settlers. Twenty of them were in and out of the Jenin area.

The rules of open fire enforced by the Israeli army for more than a year, and the new far-right government of Israel’s plans to arm more Israelis after the shooting in Jerusalem, have brought the situation to an abyss.

It remains to be seen how events will play out, but residents of the Jenin refugee camp said they were ready.

“There will be an invasion of the camp – there is no doubt about that,” Salauna said.

“Israel wants to make resistance hateful in the camp, but here we are all in one hand. Our fighters are the most honest among us and they are ready to keep fighting,” he said.

Alaa Abu Qandil, whose family owns the house where the militants were hiding, told Al Jazeera that the destruction of his house “is meaningless when it comes to the dignity of the Palestinian people, our sons and our holy places.”

“This occupation is attacking everyone, be it civilians or militants. Any man will defend his home when he is attacked, and our homes are as inviolable as the sanctity of Palestine.”

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