By Arab News
Israel has been criticized after it used drones to strike targets in a militant stronghold in the occupied West Bank early Monday and deployed hundreds of troops in an incursion that resembled the broad attacks carried out during the second Palestinian uprising two decades ago.
Troops remained inside the Jenin refugee camp on Monday, pushing ahead with the largest operation in the area during more than a year of fighting.It came amid growing domestic pressure for a tough response to a series of attacks on Israeli settlers, including a shooting attack last month that killed four Israelis.
Palestinian health officials said at least eight Palestinians were killed and 50 wounded, some critically.
According to a Palestinian official speaking late on Monday, about 3,000 Palestinians have left Jenin refugee camp after the Israeli operation.
Palestinian authorities and neighboring Jordan and Egypt as well as the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation condemned the violence.
“Our Palestinian people will not kneel, will not surrender, will not raise the white flag, and will remain steadfast on their land in the face of this brutal aggression,” said Palestinian presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh.
The White House said it was monitoring closely the situation in the West Bank, a spokesperson said on Monday.
“We have seen the reports and are monitoring the situation closely,” a White House spokesperson said. “We support Israel’s security and right to defend its people against Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other terrorist groups.”
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is deeply concerned about developments in Jenin, a spokesperson said after Israeli forces hit the West Bank city with drone strikes in one of the largest operations in the area in 20 years.
Guterres “affirms that all military operations must be conducted with full respect for international humanitarian law,” Deputy UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said in a statement.
Lynn Hastings, the UN humanitarian coordinator in the Palestinian areas, said on Twitter that she was “alarmed by scale of Israeli forces operation,” noting the airstrikes in a densely populated refugee camp. She said the UN was mobilizing humanitarian aid.
On Monday afternoon, the Israeli army said it had uncovered three weapons-making facilities, confiscated hundreds of explosives and shot two Palestinian gunmen during shootouts.
The army also reported exchanges of fire between Israeli security forces and Palestinian gunmen at a mosque where soldiers found explosive devices, weapons and military equipment.
The Jenin camp and an adjacent town of the same name have been a flashpoint since Israeli-Palestinian violence began escalating in spring 2022.
Israel’s foreign minister, Eli Cohen, accused archenemy Iran of being behind the violence by funding Palestinian militant groups, something the Palestinian side rejects.
“Due to the funds they receive from Iran, the Jenin camp has become a center for terrorist activity,” Cohen told foreign journalists, adding that the operation would be conducted in a “targeted manner” to avoid civilian casualties.
Islamic Jihad, a militant group with a large presence in Jenin, threatened to launch attacks from its Gaza Strip stronghold if the fighting dragged on.
“If the Israeli aggression against Jenin does not stop, the Palestinian resistance will do what it has to do in a short time,” said Dawood Shehab, a spokesman for the group.
Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group also condemned the attacks, saying in a statement that the Palestinians have “many alternatives and means that will make the enemy regret its acts.” Hezbollah fought a monthlong war against Israel in 2006.