Relatives mourn during the funeral of Palestinians killed during an Israeli raid on the Jenin refugee camp on Thursday. AFP
Israeli forces killed at least nine Palestinians and wounded several others in a large-scale raid on Thursday in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian officials said.
The Israeli military also fatally shot a 22-year-old Palestinian later in a separate incident. The deadliest single operation in the territory in two decades prompted Palestinian leaders to cut security ties with Israel, a move that could lead to more violence.
Thursday’s gunbattle erupted when the Israeli military conducted a rare daytime operation in the refugee camp that it said was meant to prevent an imminent attack against Israelis. A two-storey building, apparently the target of the operation, was a charred wreck. The military said it entered the building to detonate the suspects’ alleged explosives.
Palestinian Health Minister May Al Kaila said paramedics struggled to reach the wounded during the fighting, while Akram Rajoub, the governor of Jenin, said the military prevented emergency workers from evacuating them. Both accused the military of firing tear gas at the pediatric ward of a hospital, causing children to choke. Video at the hospital showed women carrying children into a corridor.
Palestinian health minister Mai Al Kaila charged that "occupation forces stormed Jenin Government Hospital and intentionally fired tear gas canisters at the paediatric department in the hospital."
The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the 61-year-old woman killed as Magda Obaid, and the Israeli military said it was looking into reports of her death.
Health officials identified the eight other dead as men ranging in age from 18 to 40. The Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade claimed one of the dead, Izz Al Din Salahat, as a fighter. The ministry said at least 20 people were wounded.
Palestinians clash with Israeli forces following an army raid in the West Bank city of Jenin on Thursday. AP
According to Israeli rights group B’Tselem, May 14, 2021, was the deadliest day in the West Bank since 2002. Raising the stakes, the Palestinian Authority said it would halt the ties that its security forces maintain with Israel in a shared effort to contain extremists.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, said Abbas had decided to cut security coordination in “light of the repeated aggression against our people, and the undermining of signed agreements,” referring to commitments from the Oslo peace process in the 1990s.
He also said that the Palestinians planned to file complaints with the UN Security Council, International Criminal Court and other international bodies.
The Arab League held “the Israeli government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fully responsible for committing the horrific bloody massacre” and called for international action.
Condemnations came from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and Turkey, which recently reestablished full diplomatic ties with Israel, as well as from neighbouring Jordan.
Hamas, the group that controls Gaza, threatened revenge for the raid. “The response of the resistance to what happened today in Jenin camp will not be delayed,” warned top Hamas official Saleh Arouri. Protesters poured into the streets in the territory, chanting in solidarity with Jenin.
Palestinians in the refugee camp dug a mass grave for the dead and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared three days of mourning, ordering flags to fly at half-staff.
The raid in the Jenin refugee camp increases the risk of a major flare-up in Israeli-Palestinian fighting days, poses a test for Israel’s new hard-line government and casts a shadow on US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s expected trip to the region next week.
Blinken will travel next week to Israel, the West Bank and Egypt where he will urge an end to violence after a deadly Israeli raid, the State Department said on Thursday.
Blinken will hold his first in-person talks with Netanyahu since the veteran leader returned to power a month ago as head of Israel’s most right-wing government in history. He will also meet in Ramallah with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on his visit Monday and Tuesday.
Barbara Leaf, the top US diplomat for the Middle East, said the administration was deeply concerned about the situation and said civilian casualties reported in Jenin were “quite regrettable.” But she also said the Palestinian announcement to suspend security cooperation with Israel was a mistake. “Obviously, we don’t think this is the right step to take at this moment,” she told reporters.
The developments come as tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have escalated during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which this year converges with major Jewish and Christian holidays.
Two brothers were killed by Israeli fire in Kafr Ein, near Ramallah, while a third man died of bullet wounds to the head fired by Israeli troops in Beit Ummar, near the flashpoint city of Hebron, the ministry said.
The fierce clashes broke out on Friday between anti-settlement protesters and Israeli soldiers in the villages of Beita, Beit Dajan, and Kafr Qaddum. The protesters burned tires and threw stones at the Israeli soldiers stationed on the perimeters of the villages, they said.
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