Angry Palestinians mourn 12 killed in Israeli military operation in Jenin

Thousands of Palestinians marched through the streets of Jenin on Wednesday for the funeral of the 12 people killed in Israel’s largest military operation in the occupied West Bank in more than 20 years.

The two-day incursion into the sprawling refugee camp, which caused extensive damage to roads, homes and cars, ended earlier Wednesday, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said, as the United Nations expressed deep concern over the violence.

“All the forces have left Jenin. We have finished the operation – its goals have been achieved,” IDF Chief Spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told Israeli military radio station Galei Tzahal.

Those who died were aged 16 to 23, and scores more injured, Palestinian officials said. Israel said it was targeting Palestinian terrorists and one of its soldiers was killed in the operation. Eight of those who were killed were members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the militant group said in a statement.

As the bodies were prepared for the funeral procession, many were wrapped in Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad flags, and carried through the streets on Wednesday.

Masked men carrying automatic weapons walked among the crowds of mourners. Many wore the arm and head bands of their factions, with their faces masked, and fired their guns in the air in a demonstration of strength and defiance.

Smeh Abulwafaa, the father of a 19-year-old killed in the incursion, called his son a “martyr.”

During proceedings, angry crowds chased away Palestinian Authority senior officials. Videos showed people chanting “get out, get out” and scuffles within the crowds, although it was unclear which officials were caught in the middle.

Mourners were angry with Palestinian senior officials over their response to the Israeli incursion. The Palestinian Authority released a statement this week with an 18-point action plan which included suspending communication with Israel.

Early Wednesday, the IDF said it also conducted strikes in the Gaza Strip, in response to five rockets launched toward Israeli territory, all of which were intercepted.

UNICEF, the UN children’s agency, reported that at least three children lost their lives in Jenin, while many others sustained injuries amid ongoing clashes.

“We are now in the end of achieving our goals, inside Jenin, fighting the terror and dismantling the terror in the Jenin Camp,” Hagari said. “We are achieving our goals and when we achieve our goals the forces will get out from the camp.”

Even after the initial IDF announcement of their forces starting to withdraw, military operations appeared to continue late Tuesday with the IDF saying that an armed terrorist cell was targeted by an IDF aircraft in a cemetery on the outskirts of Jenin city.

The operation was carried out because the gunmen “posed a threat to the security forces exiting from the Jenin Camp,” the IDF added.

“Our home, all the material things – they can be replaced, but how can I rebuild the psyche of my little girl? How will they ever feel safe again?”

“My youngest, she is only seven years old. She says she wishes she was never born. She says I should never have birthed her into this horror,” Shalby said.

In Gaza early Wednesday, the IDF said it carried out a targeted airstrike on an “underground weapon production site” used by the Palestinian militant group Hamas. A site involved in the production of raw materials for Hamas’ rockets was also targeted, it said.

“This attack constitutes damage to the ability of the terrorist organization Hamas to strengthen and arm itself,” the IDF said on Twitter.

Gaza, an isolated enclave on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, is located southwest of the landlocked West Bank.

Earlier, Hamas said a car ramming and stabbing attack in Tel Aviv Tuesday was carried out by one of their fighters, and was a response to Israel’s operation in Jenin.

Eight people were injured in the attack near a Tel Aviv shopping center, Israeli officials say, which saw the attacker emerge from the crashed vehicle and continue to stab civilians.

The UN’s human rights chief Volker Türk called for the “killing, maiming and the destruction of property” to end.

“The recent operation in the Occupied West Bank and car ramming attack in Tel Aviv worryingly underscore an all too familiar pattern of events: that violence only begets more violence,” a statement read.

“The scale of the Israeli Security Forces’ ongoing operation in Jenin, including the use of repeated airstrikes, along with the destruction of property, raises a host of serious issues with respect to international human rights norms and standards, including protecting and respecting the right to life,” he added.

Türk said “some of the methods and weapons used during the operations by ISF [Israeli Security Forces] in the Jenin Refugee Camp and surrounding areas are more generally associated with the conduct of hostilities in armed conflict, rather than law enforcement.”

He called on Israeli forces to “abide by international human rights standards,” which “do not change simply because the goal of the operation is stated as ‘counter-terrorism.’”

In a statement Wednesday, the head of Hamas’ political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, said, “the Israeli occupation army withdrew from Jenin refugee camp with its tail between its legs.”

“All options to support Jenin camp are on the table,” Haniyeh said. “Resistance remains the strategic option for the Palestinian people to confront the Israeli aggression and end the occupation.”

Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad said in a statement earlier Wednesday that the “Palestinian people scored a great victory by defeating the aggression against Jenin and its camp.”

Rising casualties

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attack, saying “whoever thinks that such an attack will deter us from continuing our fight against terrorism is mistaken. He is simply unfamiliar with the spirit of the State of Israel, our government, our citizens and our soldiers.”

In Jenin, a total of 117 people were injured in the refugee camp due to the ongoing IDF operation, said the Palestinian Red Crescent on Tuesday. Among these injuries, there are 12 reported as serious and 33 as moderate. The IDF had acknowledged civilians among those injured.

Thousands are still out of their homes, after evacuating overnight to avoid harm. The damage in the camp is extensive, with some roads torn up as Israeli bulldozers disarmed IEDs, and extensive damage to homes and cars as a result of the clashes.

Rudeineh said that “the Israeli army was attacking Palestinian citizens” and added, “What happened yesterday was completely dangerous.”

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