Israel carried out drone strikes and deployed hundreds of troops on Monday in the, in the occupied West Bank, in what an Israeli official called the largest operation in the area in nearly two decades. At least nine Palestinians were killed in the raid and 50 wounded, according to Palestinian health officials, as shootings were reported on the streets of a sprawling refugee camp in Jenin.
An Israeli army spokesman, Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, said the aim of the operation was to seize or destroy weapons belonging to Palestinian militants. The Associated Press quoted Hecht as saying the raid began at 1:00 am Monday with an airstrike on a building in the Jenin refugee camp that he said was being used by militants to plan attacks.
Hecht said the raid continued with more strikes to clear the way for approximately 2,000 Israeli ground forces. He said that although Israel had carried out attacks on Jenin in recent weeks, this was the biggest escalation since 2006.
The sound of gunfire and the drone of drones could be heard in the streets of the camp, and black smoke billowed into the air above him. The Palestinian news agency Wafa said Israeli forces demolished roads and a memorial to those killed in the refugee camp. He said that a child was injured by shrapnel.
Israel has blamed multiple shooting attacks on Israelis this year on Palestinian militants allegedly operating in the Jenin refugee camp, and the camp has been raided multiple times. It was established to house Palestinians who were displaced during the 1948-1949 Arab-Israeli war, and currently houses about 14,000 people, according to the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency. The raids have raised fears that civilians could be caught in the crossfire, and the UN said it was mobilizing humanitarian aid.
Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said the raids were targeting specific “proxies of Iran” such as Islamic Jihad and Hamas, and that Israel “did not plan to hold its ground” in the West Bank.
“Because of the terrorist organization and the funds they receive from Iran, the Jenin camp has become a center of terrorist activity,” Cohen said.
But Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh called the raid “a new attempt to destroy the camp and displace its people,” according to CBS News’ partner network, BBC News. “Our heroic people will face this aggression that is taking place before the eyes of the international community, where innocent people are bombarded by planes. Our people will not kneel or surrender, and we will continue to fight until this criminal occupation ends. .”
Separately, on Monday, a Palestinian was killed in a protest against the Jenin raid near the West Bank city of Ramallah.