Five Palestinians killed as Israeli forces raid West Bank camp

At least 91 were wounded as Israeli soldiers stormed the Jenin camp, backed by the rare use of helicopter gunships.

Mourners laid their loved ones to rest hours after the Israeli military used helicopter gunships during a large-scale incursion into the occupied West Bank’s Jenin refugee camp, killing five Palestinians and wounding at least 91.

The fiercest clashes in years began early Monday after Israeli soldiers stormed the camp, firing live ammunition, stun grenades and toxic gas, according to the Wafa news agency. Combat helicopters were used for the first time in decades after the ensuing hours-long fighting.

One of the Palestinian fatalities was a child.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health identified the victims as Ahmed Saqr, 15, Khaled Darwish, 21, Qassam Sariya, 19, Qassam Faisal Abu Sirriya, 29, and Ahmed Daraghmeh.

At least 22 injured Palestinians are believed to be in critical condition.

Mourners at the funeral of a Palestinian who was killed by Israeli troops in an Israeli raid, in Jenin, in the occupied West Bank [Mohamad Torokman/Reuters]

Reporting from the occupied West Bank, Al Jazeera’s Nida Ibrahim said Israeli military forces withdrew from the camp after several hours.

At the cemetery in the camp, with funerals under way, Ibrahim said, “Relatives and friends are coming to pay their respects and to show solidarity with the families – to show sadness, to show anger.”

“Some are reciting some prayers; others are just soaking in the sadness.”

“This cemetery – we’ve been coming here for the past year – there’s almost no space for more Palestinians to be buried here,” she added.

Journalists on the ground told Al Jazeera that several colleagues were shot at by Israeli forces during the raid, which took place close to the location where veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot and killed by an Israeli sniper in May 2022.

Four ambulances were targeted by Israeli forces in Jenin, according to Nibal Farsakh, media and information officer at the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS).

They were “directly targeted with live ammunition, causing material damage to the structure and the glass of the ambulances themselves”, Farsakh said.

According to Farsakh, medical teams were first denied access and eventually arrived late to treat those who were injured at the scene. Some were “in a very severe condition” and needed urgent medical assistance.

Smoke billows from an explosion during an Israeli army raid
Smoke billows from an explosion during an Israeli army raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin [Alaa Badarneh/EPA]

The Israeli military confirmed seven of its soliders were wounded during the attack, with the army saying on its radio channel that one soldier’s condition had deteriorated but was stable.

The raid was to arrest two suspects and that its soldiers came under fire, which resulted in a “massive exchange of fire”, the Israeli military said.

One of the suspects they were after was “the son of an imprisoned Hamas leader”, Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan said from West Jerusalem.

As the Israeli military vehicles were exiting the camp, one “was hit by an explosive device, damaging the vehicle”, after which military helicopters shot towards the gunmen to help the forces exit, according to the army’s statement.

Video footage verified by the Sanad agency showed an Israeli helicopter launching a rocket at the camp and surveillance aircraft hovering above.

The use of helicopter gunships was a 20-year first in the West Bank.

Mohammed Kamanji, a lawyer and field researcher with the Independent Commission for Human Rights, said the latest raid was accompanied by “drones and Apache helicopters”, adding that it was the “largest” raid in many years.

Israeli forces are “perpetrating gross violations against not only the paramedics, but also the journalists”, he said.

Bezalel Smotrich, Israel’s finance minister, has publicly called for “a large-scale operation across the [occupied] West Bank”, adding that “the time had come”.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) condemned the Israeli operation as a “heinous crime” while Hamas, the group ruling the Gaza Strip since 2007, declared its support for resistance in Jenin.

A group of PIJ and Hamas leaders were in Iran’s capital on Monday for high-level meetings when the raid took place.

Dozens of Palestinians protested in Gaza and denounced the Israeli military’s excessive use of force on civilians. In the Malaka area of east Gaza, youth set tyres ablaze and raised Palestinian flags and banners.

Bader Al-Daya, 28, told Al Jazeera that he was there to express solidarity and show that Gaza and Jenin are “one body”.

“The Israeli occupation commits daily crimes in all the Palestinian territories, and today Jenin is under fire. It is our duty to show solidarity with our brothers in Jenin and support them with everything we have,” he said. “I don’t know what the international community is waiting for to stop Israel from its continuing crimes against our people.”

Mustafa Barghouti, general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative, told Al Jazeera the attack on Jenin is not an equal “gunfight between two sides”.

“It is a criminal war that the Israeli, very well-equipped army is conducting against Palestinian civilians in Jenin,” he said. “You are talking about an army that is using Apache helicopters, F-16 jet fighters, armoured vehicles, unlimited amount of gunpowder against the civilian population, basically in Jenin camp and Jenin city itself.”

Daniel Levy, a former Israeli negotiator and president of the US/Middle East Project, said the Israeli government is “looking for every opportunity to provoke the Palestinians”.

This round of raids came at a “much more aggressive stance militarily, in terms of going into those Palestinian areas”, Levy told Al Jazeera.

Israel has been conducting near-daily raids and killings of Palestinians in the West Bank since June 2021 in an attempt to crack down on a growing armed resistance.

In 2022, Israeli forces killed more than 170 Palestinians, including at least 30 children, in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, in what was described as the deadliest year for Palestinians living in those areas since 2006.

Since the start of 2023, Israeli forces have killed at least 160 Palestinians, including 26 children. The death toll includes 36 Palestinians killed by the Israeli army during a four-day assault on the besieged Gaza Strip between May 9 and 13.

Source: Al Jazeera