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Palestinian militants ‘ready to die’ as prospect of all-out war increases after West Bank clashes | World News

The lanes that run inside the Balata refugee camp are narrow, claustrophobic and full of uncollected rubbish.

Posters commemorating the fallen militants are pasted on the walls. Children are everywhere – more than half of the camp’s population is under 25 years old.

We were escorted to meet with fighters from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, one of the largest and oldest militant groups in the West Bank.

They are a banned terrorist group IsraelEU and US, but not UK.

Outside, I turned a corner and they were there, all dressed in black, with M16s in their hands and balaclavas covering their faces.

They are young men, well-armed and say they are ready to die defending their land.

We got to know each other and then moved into another lane – an Israeli military observation post was on a hill above us; snipers watch every movement in the camp below.

“We are seeing an escalation [Israeli] occupying forces through camps in West Bankespecially in Jenin and Balat,” one of the militants tells me.

“Most of the operations are carried out by Israeli special forces. Yesterday, two of our men were killed in clashes when they got inside the camp.”

The soldiers are relaxed. This is their stronghold.

Poster in the old city
A poster depicting dead militants hangs over a fruit and vegetable stall

Security cameras seem to be everywhere, they joke that it’s like Paris or London; the militia has its own reconnaissance unit, which monitors the entrance to the camp of secret Israeli special forces.

Violent clashes have intensified in recent months, with 2022 being the deadliest year since 2005, and just a few weeks old, 2023 is even deadlier.

After nine Palestinians, mostly militants, were killed in Israeli counter-terrorism raid on Thursday, the prospect of another all-out war is getting closer.

One of those killed was Magda Obeid, 61, caught in the crossfire.

The IDF says it is investigating her death, but the list of unexplained civilian casualties is growing.

“I think there will be an escalation in the West Bank because of the policies of the right-wing Israeli government,” predicts a militant from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

Ibrahim Ramadan, Governor of Nablus
Ibrahim Ramadan, governor of Nablus, says people have ‘no hope’

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There is again talk of a new uprising, of a third intifada that has been so often threatened in recent years.

“I think an intifada is coming,” Ibrahim Ramadan, the governor of Nablus, tells me.

“Why? My people have no hope. The Palestinian people need hope, a little hope for their freedom.”

The Deputy Mayor of Nablus, Dr. Khusam Shahshiris, is more optimistic, but equally sharp in his assessment of the current situation.

“It [Nablus] occupied by the State of Israel. The Israeli army enters the city every day,” he says.

“We have two military camps at the top. [of the surrounding hills]we have seven settlements surrounding the city of Nablus connected by bus routes, and it is easy for the Israelis to close the city and prevent movement in and out of the city.”

While we are walking around the city together, Dr. Khusam is clearly popular. The residents stop to greet him.

Unlike the militants with whom we met, he has age-old wisdom, is thoughtful and measured in his words, but no less condemns Israel.

“How bad?” I asked him.

Dr. Khusam Shakshiris
Deputy mayor of Nablus says the current situation is the worst he has ever seen

“This is bad. I see all the time in the past that there was hope for a peaceful solution, for the implementation of the two-state solution, especially after Oslo,” says Dr. Husam.

“Now we do not see this hope, we do not see a peaceful solution, and we are stuck in these contours created by the policies of the State of Israel. They do not see and do not recognize our national right to self-determination.

“This is the worst situation in my life.”

Violence in Israel and the West Bank comes in cycles.

Right now, any prospect of peace talks or even a two-state solution seems far away.

Neither side is in the mood for negotiation or compromise, so for many Palestinians, fighting seems the only path to greater freedom.

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