Nine Palestinians were killed, including an elderly woman, and several injured in violent clashes between Israeli forces and gunmen in the city of Jenin in the northern West Bank on Thursday morning. Palestinian health officials said they did.
In a statement, the Israel Defense Forces said troops had entered the Jenin refugee camp to thwart an imminent planned attack by a local branch of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group.
“This team was a time bomb. If we didn’t act, they would have,” a senior IDF officer told reporters.
“While trying to arrest them, the suspects opened fire and died in a shootout with our forces,” the Israel Defense Forces said. Three of his members of the PIJ cell were killed and a fourth arrested, according to the military.
“Wanted PIJ operatives have been implicated in recent large-scale terrorist activities and are suspected of carrying out several shooting attacks against IDF forces and planning other significant attacks. ” he said.
The army said the raid on the cell hideout apartments in the camp was launched following “accurate information” given to the army by the Shin Bet security services.
The military used shoulder-launched missiles and other explosives against their hideouts in a tactic known as the “pressure cooker” to try to wipe out the wanted men.
During the raid, other Palestinian gunmen opened fire on Israeli forces, who fired back and attacked some, the military added.
No Israeli soldiers were injured in the clashes, according to the IDF.
The PIJ’s local branch said its members opened fire on Israeli forces and detonated an explosive device in the area. Several Israeli Defense Force jeeps were damaged by the explosives, requiring a tow truck to extract them, officers said.
The Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Health said in a statement that nine Palestinians had died and another 20 were injured, four of them in critical condition.
Thursday morning’s clashes are likely to be the deadliest assault on Israel’s West Bank in years.
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The ministry said the dead included a 60-year-old woman identified as Magda Obeid.
The IDF was investigating her death, military sources said.
Among the men killed were 24-year-old Saeb Essam Mahmoud Azriqi, 26-year-old Izzidin Yassin Salahat, Abdullah Marwan al-Ghoul and Moatassem Abu al-Hassan.
Salahat was confirmed by the Palestinian media to be a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, a terrorist group loosely affiliated with the PA’s ruling Fatah Party, as well as a member of the PA security forces. rice field.
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Nabil Abu Rudine, a spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said Israel was “carrying out a massacre in Jenin amidst international silence.”
Abbas later announced three days of mourning for the deaths of nine Palestinians. In a statement reported by the Palestinian media, Abbas ordered flags to be flown at half mast to mourn “the souls of the martyrs in the occupation massacre at the Jenin refugee camp.”
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Explosions and gunshots were heard in footage released by the Palestinian media. Another clip allegedly shows a Palestinian gunman shooting down his small IDF surveillance drone.
Jenin Deputy Governor Kamal Abu Al-Rub said residents were in a “real state of war”.
“The Israeli army is destroying everything and shooting everything that moves,” he told AFP.
Pennsylvania Health Minister Mai Al Khaira said paramedics were having trouble reaching the wounded in the heat of battle.
Al-Kaila also accused the military of firing tear gas into the hospital’s pediatric ward, choking children. said tear gas likely flowed into the hospital from a nearby clash.
A senior Israel Defense Forces officer told reporters that the attack lasted about three hours.
The officer said the Israeli Defense Forces “are ready for any scenario”, including the possibility of rocket launches from the Gaza Strip in response to a deadly clash. Over the past year, the PIJ has fired rockets into Israel in response to the killings or arrests of its members in the West Bank.
The officer said the army was ready to expand to other areas, including the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to make an assessment of the incident later in the day, while Foreign Minister Eli Cohen is standing in for Defense Minister Yoav Galant, who reportedly left for the United States on Wednesday for a short personal trip. rice field.
Tensions have risen in the West Bank in recent days as the IDF pushes its counter-terrorist attacks, largely focused on the northern West Bank, to deal with a series of attacks that killed 31 people in Israel in 2022.
Jenin is widely seen as a hotbed of terrorist activity and has been the focus of many raids.
IDF operations have resulted in more than 2,500 arrests in most nightly raids. In 2022, he also has 171 Palestinian deaths, with 29 more dead since the beginning of the year as of Thursday, many of them during attacks or clashes with security forces. Some were non-involved civilians.
Institutions contributed to this report.