Middle East roundup: Jenin, the refugee camp on Israel’s radar

Secret Iran-US talks, and alarm about possible genocide in Sudan. Here’s the Middle East roundup from this week.

Mourners carry the body of a Palestinian who was killed in an Israeli raid, during his funeral in Jenin
Mourners carry the body of a Palestinian who was killed in an Israeli raid in Jenin [Mohamad Torokman/Reuters]

This week, Israeli forces once again raided the refugee camp in Jenin, the city that has come to symbolise Palestinian resistance.

Iran and the United States might be involved in talks.

The situation in Sudan gets more dire, with rights groups raising the alarm about a possible genocide.

Here’s what’s happening in the Middle East and North Africa this week:

Why Jenin?

It was a familiar headline: Israeli forces storm the Jenin refugee camp, ostensibly to arrest two suspects. What followed was a 20-year first: the use of helicopter gunships in the occupied West Bank. They pummelled the camp, killing seven Palestinians, including two minors, and injuring 91 others.

A large-scale military incursion on the Jenin camp has happened before. In 2002, 52 Palestinians were killed in a raid there. That was a turning point for the camp, marking it as a symbol of resistance for Palestinians.

Nowadays, what concerns Israel is that, in Jenin and elsewhere, young Palestinians are increasingly taking up arms, seeing no other way to alleviate the pressure of occupation.

A day after the deadly raid, Palestinian gunmen killed four Israeli settlers at a petrol station between the Palestinian cities of Ramallah and Nablus. Hours after the shooting, Israeli settlers stormed through Palestinian towns, torching property and smashing cars. A Palestinian man was killed.

But that wasn’t all. Israeli forces then deployed a rare drone to raid a target they called a “terrorist cell” responsible for recent shootings, killing three people.

Are Iran and the US holding secret talks?

Longtime rivals Iran and the US are holding closed-door talks, with the US vying for the release of prisoners and curbing Iran’s nuclear programme, according to sources. Neither side has gone public about the talks, but a short-term agreement is reportedly expected, rather than a revival of the 2015 deal.

But what’s in it for Iran? Well, any potential deal could ease Western sanctions imposed for violations of the 2015 accord, ease punitive measures by Washington and its allies and applied through the International Atomic Energy Agency or it could spur the US to release billions of dollars in frozen Iranian assets.

In Sudan, things are not looking better

Intensified fighting in Sudan’s West Darfur city of el-Geneina is raising alarm about the possibility of genocide. Thousands have fled in the last week alone, with the violence targeting civilians and driven by militias from Arab nomadic tribes, along with members of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.

But there’s no respite for those trying to escape. Sudanese citizens are being targeted by the militias even as they enter neighbouring Chad. A 72-hour ceasefire meant nothing for the people of Darfur, while its expiration was marked by fighting elsewhere in the country.

Hajj journeys offer hope and joy

Millions of Muslims from around the world have embarked on the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. This year, Hajj will start on Monday, June 26, and Eid al-Adha celebrations will occur on June 28.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on what happens during Hajj and Eid al-Adha.

Life is not easy in Syria, Yemen and the Gaza Strip with war and military occupations. But the journey for Hajj often inspires hope for those from these regions, many of whom save the little money they can for years to be able to afford it.

Four groups of pilgrims left Gaza this week. Pilgrims from northwestern Syria streamed through border crossings with Turkey. And Yemenis boarded the first direct flight to Saudi Arabia since 2016 for the pilgrimage.

A little something different: People being amazing

In Jordan’s water-scarce Mafraq region, a farming collective is transforming the lives of Syrian and Jordanian women. They’re learning to grow the azolla plant, a cheaper and less labour-intensive feed for livestock that allows the women to become farmers and provide for their families.

In Qatar’s capital, the city’s glistening skyscrapers get wiped down by Doha’s “Spidermen”. Cleaning the windows of a 40-plus storey building is not for the faint-hearted, but the rigorously trained workers love the adventure of the job.

For the second year in a row, Prince Abdulaziz, son of the late Saudi King Fahd bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, has sponsored about 500 Syrian pilgrims injured in the war there to participate in the Hajj pilgrimage. He’s known in northern Syria as Abu Turki – an alias he used to keep his philanthropy hidden until last year – and pays for the injured pilgrims’ travel and accommodation, their travel documents and Hajj acceptance permits.


Quote of the week

“When Ahmad was killed, I felt as though I lost one of my organs. He was the light of my eye. He was barely in the eighth grade. He used to help me with everything around the house and outside.” | Yousif Saqr, talking about his son, 15-year-old Ahmad Yousif Saqr, who was shot dead by Israeli forces during the raid on the Jenin refugee camp.

Source: Al Jazeera