Israel says it is targeting the refugee camp because it is home to Palestinians responsible for a spate of attacks on Israeli citizens in recent months. Early Tuesday, Israeli forces said they had been able to find and seize weapons and explosives as well as destroy tunnels and command posts.
“In recent months, Jenin has turned into a safe haven for terrorism. We are putting an end to this,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, adding that the operation was being carried out with “minimum harm to civilians.”
Some Palestinians say this violence is a consequence of more than 50 years of occupation by Israeli forces. They observed a general strike across the West Bank in protest.
Tuesday’s suspected attack in Tel Aviv left one woman, 46, in a serious condition with multiple injuries, and three others with moderate or mild injuries, according to a spokesperson from Israel’s Magen David Adom ambulance service.
Hamas, which claimed responsibility, is classified as a terrorist organization by the Israel, the United States and others.
The Palestinian leadership in the West Bank condemned the raid and said late Monday it would freeze its few remaining points of cooperation with Israel, as well as minimizing contact with Israel’s main benefactor, the United States.
A State Department spokesperson said it supported Israel’s “right to defend its people” against “terrorist groups.” Meanwhile they cautioned it was “imperative to take all possible precautions to prevent the loss of civilian lives” and urged “Israeli and Palestinian security forces to work together to improve the security situation in the West Bank.”
International bodies have also expressed concern.
U.N. Mideast envoy Tor Wennesland warned that the escalation in the West Bank was “very dangerous.”
Lynn Hastings, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in the Palestinian areas, tweeted that she was “alarmed” by the “scale of Israeli forces operation” and noted the airstrikes in a densely populated refugee camp. She said the U.N. was mobilizing humanitarian aid.
Some commentators inside Israel have also suggested that the move may be an attempt at pleasing members of the country’s far right-led government, which is dominated by West Bank settlers and their supporters.
“Proud of our heroes on all fronts and this morning especially of our soldiers operating in Jenin,” tweeted National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, an ultranationalist who recently called for Israel to kill thousands of militants if necessary. “Praying for their success.”
Israeli forces routinely conduct raids in the occupied West Bank even though the Palestinian Authority has full control over administrative and security issues in the area.
More than 140 Palestinians have been killed this year in the West Bank, according to the Associated Press, part of more than a yearlong spike in violence that has seen some of the worst bloodshed in the area in nearly two decades. Palestinian attacks targeting Israelis have killed at least 26 people, the news agency said.
Israel says that most of those killed in recent raids have been militants but that others — including youths protesting the incursions and other people not involved in confrontations — have also died.
Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, territories the Palestinians seek for their hoped-for independent state, in the 1967 Mideast war.
Lawahez Jabari reported from Jenin, in the West Bank, and Alexander Smith reported from London.