Entering the Jenin camp in the West Bank today bears a striking resemblance to stepping foot into a fortified military compound. Positioned at its entry points are rudimentary metallic barriers strategically placed to impede the passage of Israeli military vehicles.
These obstacles are accompanied by a network of interconnected wires, tethered to locally crafted explosive devices, running alongside the roads that lead to the camp’s narrow pathways.
The camp is home to a population of over 20,000.
Sand barricades line the entrances of narrow alleys and streets within the cramped camp, spanning less than half a square kilometer. This restricted space has become a periodic battleground between Israeli special forces and Palestinian militants.
Overhead, Israeli reconnaissance aircraft incessantly surveil the camp’s skies, intensifying the prevailing tension and anxiety by closely monitoring alleyway activities day and night.
The status quo at Jenin camp reflects escalating military tensions in Palestinian territories after years of relative calm, especially with the emergence of a new generation of militants who have become a top priority for Israel.
The existing power imbalance, evident in the crude fortifications confronting the advanced military capabilities of the Israeli army at the camp entrances, indicates that the upcoming wave of violence will be intense and prolonged.
Two decades ago, the Jenin camp witnessed one of the most ferocious battles between Palestinians and Israelis. In the spring of 2002, it was overrun by Israeli forces as part of their operations, known as “Operation Defensive Shield,” aimed at militarily crushing the Second Intifada.
Israel devastated entire neighborhoods within the camp, prompting US Middle East envoy Terje Rod-Larsen to describe the camp’s fate as an “earthquake.”
The battle resulted in the death of 58 Palestinians, according to the UN, while Israel acknowledged the loss of 23 of its soldiers, including 14 who were killed in a single day.
Nowadays, a new generation in the camp is arming itself against Israel once again.
The Jenin Brigade, for example, is drawing young recruits and executing operations against Israeli targets.
For its part, the Israeli army is relentlessly pursuing the brigade by conducting raids into Jenin. This has sparked recent intense clashes.
Asharq Al-Awsat has managed to interview the brigade leader, who is at the top of Israel's wanted list.
Israeli security forces have attempted to assassinate him multiple times, resulting in the death of his two brothers and several comrades during Israeli incursions in Jenin.
In an interview conducted under sensitive security conditions, the top wanted individual told Asharq Al-Awsat about his engagement in armed activities.
With his hand gripping his rifle in one of the camp's alleys, surrounded by masked members of his brigade, he said: “I am in my thirties, and I joined the armed struggle due to the vanishing hopes we all faced and the ongoing aggression of the occupation against us.”
“We will bear our weapons and proceed to die with dignity, as long as the occupation persists, we will have no future ahead of us,” he added.
According to recent studies conducted by the Palestinian Center for Political and Survey Research, the latest opinion polls reveal that both Palestinians and Israelis share the belief that the ongoing wave of violence in the West Bank could potentially evolve into a fresh uprising.
Approximately 61% of Palestinians consider the situation in the West Bank as the start of a wider confrontation, while 65% of Israelis concur with this assessment.
Figures indicated a slight increase in support for the option of armed struggle among Palestinians compared to previous years. The approval rating reached 40%, up from 37% in 2020.
As for Israelis, 26% of them preferred the option of a “decisive war against the Palestinians,” representing a 7-point increase in support for this option compared to opinion polls conducted in 2020, according to the same center.