JENIN REFUGEE CAMP, West Bank (AP) — At least four Palestinians were killed and 44 wounded during an Israeli military raid Wednesday into the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, the Palestinian Health Ministry reported, marking the deadliest episode since Israel escalated a crackdown on the occupied territory earlier this year.
Israeli forces said they fatally shot two Palestinians they had been sent to arrest in the camp over their suspected involvement in recent shooting attacks. When soldiers surrounded a house in the camp, an explosive device detonated, a gunfight ensued and Israeli troops killed the two Palestinians, the military said.
During the raid, armed clashes broke out in the camp as militants hurled rocks and opened fire at arriving troops. The violence killed another two Palestinians and wounded at least 44 others, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party identified one of the men killed in the clashes as a 24-year-old Palestinian intelligence officer named Ahmed Alawneh. The party called for protests and a general strike in the West Bank over what it described as a “dangerous escalation.”
Jenin in the northern West Bank — long considered a bastion of Palestinian militancy and frequent flashpoint for violence — is governed by the Palestinian Authority like most other Palestinian urban centers, even though the Israeli military routinely carries out arrest raids in the area.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Abbas, denounced the raid, saying Israel's “policy of escalation” will not deliver “legitimacy, security or stability, whether in the Islamic and Christian holy sites or in Jenin."
Israel's stepped-up military activities in the West Bank follow a surge in Palestinian attacks inside Israel last spring. Israel identified one of the Palestinians killed in Wednesday's raid as Rahman Hazam, the brother of a Palestinian gunman who attacked a bar in central Tel Aviv last April and was killed by police.
Footage Wednesday showed giant plumes of smoke billowing from a house in the crowded camp, apparently after the explosive detonated. In Jenin's streets, young men ducked behind cars as heavy gunfire rang out. Israeli armored vehicles and bulldozers rumbled down the battered roads. An angry crowd of men marched through the camp's narrow alleys holding a shrouded body aloft.
“We are here for martyrdom,” they cried.
Dozens of Palestinians have been killed in the campaign of raids on the West Bank, making this year the deadliest in the occupied territory since 2015. The city of Jenin regularly sees Israeli arrest raids lead to gun battles with camp residents.
Most of the Palestinians killed in the recent wave of Israeli raids have been wanted militants or young men who throw stones or fire bombs at soldiers invading their towns. But some civilians, including an Al Jazeera journalist and a lawyer who inadvertently drove into a battle zone, have also been killed in the violence.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war and has built more than 130 settlements across the territory that are home to nearly 500,000 Jewish settlers. The Palestinians want the West Bank, home to some 3 million Palestinians, to form the main part of their future state.
The last serious peace talks broke down more than a decade ago.