Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Israel, Gaza Fighters Trade Missiles after Deadly West Bank Raid

Israel, Gaza Fighters Trade Missiles after Deadly West Bank Raid

Friday, 27 January, 2023 - 06:00
An ambulance drives past an Israeli military vehicle near a burning barricade in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin. Zain Jaafar / AFP

Israel and Palestinian fighters in the Gaza Strip traded missile fire Friday, raising fears of a further escalation after one of the deadliest army raids in the occupied West Bank in years.

Israel said that in response to the missiles, it "targeted an underground rocket manufacturing site" belonging to Hamas and a north Gaza military base used by the Palestinian armed group.

There were no reported casualties on either side and most of the rockets fired from the coastal Palestinian enclave were intercepted by Israel's air defense system.

Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters took part in the launches, Khaled al-Batsh, an Islamic Jihad leader told a rally in Gaza later Friday, praising the "unity of the ranks of the resistance".

Hamas and Islamic Jihad do not always act in unison. In August last year Hamas, which controls Gaza, refused to join Islamic Jihad during three days of fighting against Israel.

The White House said it was "deeply concerned" and urged "de-escalation".

"We're certainly deeply concerned by this escalating cycle of violence in the West Bank, as well as by the rockets that have been apparently launched from Gaza," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

A panel of independent United Nations human rights experts said the death toll from Thursday's raid marked "the highest number of people killed in a single operation in the West Bank since 2005".

"We deplore the Israeli army's latest violent attack against the Jenin refugee camp," said the experts, who do not speak for the UN.

Israeli forces killed nine people during the raid on the crowded camp, where gunshots rang through the streets and smoke billowed from burning barricades.

Calm returned to Jenin on Friday, but businesses across the city shuttered in a general strike.

The military said Israeli forces came under fire during a "counterterrorism operation to apprehend an Islamic Jihad terror squad" and shot several enemy combatants.

'State of panic'

The violence prompted the Palestinian Authority to announce it was cutting security coordination with Israel, a move criticized by the United States.

The military said the incursion targeted Islamic Jihad fighters who were allegedly behind attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians and, according to Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, were planning "to conduct a terror attack in Israel".

Three Palestinians were shot in a firefight, while Israeli forces shot a further two "fleeing the scene", an army statement said. Israeli forces also shot a sixth suspect inside a building, and other Palestinians were hit after firing on troops, the army said.

There were no casualties among the Israeli forces, the military added.

Wisam Bakr, director of the Jenin Government Hospital, said there was a "state of panic" in the pediatric ward, with some children suffering from tear gas inhalation.

The Israeli military told AFP "the activity was not far away from the hospital, and it is possible some tear gas entered through an open window".

Jenin resident Umm Youssef al-Sawalmi said homes were hit during the raid. "Windows, doors, walls and even the refrigerator, everything was damaged by the bullets," she told AFP.

'Bloody massacre'

The latest deaths bring the number of Palestinians killed in the West Bank so far this year to 30, including fighters and civilians, most of whom were shot by Israeli forces.

Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri vowed that Israel "will pay the price for the Jenin massacre".

Washington earlier Thursday announced US Secretary of State Antony Blinken would travel next week to Israel and the Palestinian territories, where he will push for an "end to the cycle of violence".

Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE condemned the deadly Israeli incursion.

The mounting toll follows the deadliest year in the Palestinian territory recorded by the UN.

At least 26 Israelis and 200 Palestinians were killed across Israel and the Palestinian territories in 2022, the majority in the West Bank, according to an AFP tally from official sources.

UN Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland said he was "deeply alarmed and saddened by the continuing cycle of violence in the occupied West Bank".

Thousands flocked to funerals in Jenin, as the Palestinian presidency announced three days of mourning.

It charged that Thursday's raid was happening "under international silence".

Editor Picks