Israel Launches Largest Operation In West Bank's Jenin In 2 Decades, At Least 7 Palestinians Killed And 20 Detained

Jenin in West Bank has been a Palestinian militant stronghold and the Israeli authorities believe that many Palestinians who carried out attacks over the past year belonged to Jenin.

Israeli security forces personnel in an operation

In its biggest operation in West Bank in nearly two decades, the Israeli forces on Sunday night launched air and ground assaults in the West Bank city of Jenin. 

The Israeli forced have carried out drone strikes and have used a brigade-size force of ground personnel along with heavy vehicles in Jenin, a known stronghold of Palestinian armed groups. 

In the fighting so far, at least seven suspected Palestinian terrorists have been killed and around 20 have been detained. The operation is expected to continue for days and can go on for weeks as well as the Israeli authorities have not given a clear timeline. 

The Jenin operation is the latest escalation in the heightened violence between the Israelis and Palestinians that has been going on for over a year now. Dozens of Israelis have been killed in a series of Palestinian attacks and Israel too has carried out near-daily raids in West Banks in which over a hundred Palestinians have been killed. While several belonged to terrorist groups, unarmed civilians and those not involved in fighting have also been killed. 

"Israel says most of those killed have been militants, but stone-throwing youths protesting the incursions and also people not involved in the confrontations have also been killed," reported The Associated Press (AP).

What do we know of Jenin operation?

The Israeli authorities have said that they are targeting terrorist facilities in the Jenin. A military spokesperson described it as a "safe haven" for terrorists. Sharing satellite imagery of Jenin, the spokesperson said terrorists have made "operational sites" next to schools and United Nations (UN) facilities in the area. 

Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Spokesperson Lt. Col. Richard Hecht said, "A joint operations centre for terrorist operatives in the 'Jenin Brigade'. Used as an a advanced observation and reconnaissance centre, a place where armed terrorists would gather before and after terrorist activities, a site for armament of weapons and explosives, and as a hub for coordination and communications among the terrorists."

Drone strikes were also carried out against a joint war-room of various Palestinian armed groups, according to a report.

"The military said it carried out an airstrike against a joint war room shared by various armed groups in the city including the so-called Jenin Battalion, which 'served as an observation post, a gathering place for armed terrorists before and after terror acts, a cache for munitions and bombs and a communications center'," reported The Times of Israel.

Hecht said that around 2,000 personnel have been pressed into the operation that began around 1 am on Sunday night. He added that it is not an occupation operation but one against specific targets. 

"So far, at least seven suspected Palestinian terrorists are dead and dozens wounded, but the real number is expected to be much higher and to expand in the coming days," reported The Jerusalem Post. 

Photo of deceased Palestinians with weapons have been shared by the Arabic press. 

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) has acknowledged that its fighters are engaged in fighting with the Israelis in Jenin.

"Members of the Jenin Battalion, a local Islamic Jihad wing, claimed its members had opened fire on Israeli troops in the city and had targeted military vehicles, including a D9 bulldozer, with explosive devices," reported The Times of Israel.

Sky-high tensions leading to Jenin operations

While the past year has been the most tense in over a decade of Israeli-Palestinian relations, last few months have been particularly tense that have seen a string of Palestinian terrorist attacks and Israeli raids in which Palestinian fatalities have mounted. A series of Palestinian attacks in recent weeks had further raised the tensions. 

"For weeks there had been speculation about a major Israeli military operation in the West Bank, following a string of shooting attacks and intense resistance to IDF raids in Palestinian cities," reported The Times of Israel. 

Moreover, Jenin has been known to be a refuge for armed groups whose operatives often escape to the city. Israeli National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi called it a "sanctuary city" for terrorists. 

Hanegbi said, "Jenin has become a 'sanctuary city' for terrorist operatives, and the intelligence that has been accumulated has indicated that there is an effort by Iran and its proxies, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, to transfer a lot of money and weapons to terrorists."

The Times of Israel reported that the "city of Jenin and its environs, has long been considered by the IDF as a hotbed of terrorism" and many of the Palestinian attackers over the past year belonged to the city.

"According to the IDF, since last year, some 50 shooting attacks were carried out by residents of the area, and 19 wanted Palestinians escaped to Jenin to seek refuge there from Israeli forces," reported The Times of Israel.