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Explained: Why Has Israel Launched Its Biggest Military Operation In 2 Decades in Jenin? What Are The Objectives?

Just as the Israeli military was operating in Jenin, where thousands have fled amid heavy fighting, a Palestinian terrorist carried out a car ramming and stabbing attack in Israel's Tel Aviv and injured eight persons. 

Tires burn during an Israeli military raid in the militant stronghold of Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank.
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In its largest military operation in West Bank in nearly two decades, Israeli military entered the Palestinian settlement of Jenin on the intervening night of Sunday and Monday. 

The coordinated air and ground assaults are the largest in scale in West Bank since the second Palestinian uprising, called Intifada, during 2000-05. 

So far, at least 10 suspected Palestinian terrorists have been killed and 120 have been detained. The Israeli military has said that Jenin had become a terror hub where terrorists had built safe havens inside mosques and next to schools and United Nations (UN) facilities. Just as the Israeli military was operating in Jenin, where thousands have fled amid heavy fighting, a Palestinian terrorist carried out a car ramming and stabbing attack in Israel's Tel Aviv and injured eight persons. 

The Jenin operation and the Tel Aviv attack weeks of sky-high tensions amid a string of Palestinian attacks and fatal Israeli raids in Palestinian Territories. For over a year now, the Israeli-Palestinian violence has been at a scale not seen in over a decades. 

Here we explain why Israel is conducting the operating in Jenin and what we know about the Tel Aviv terrorist attack.

Why did Israel conduct launch operation into Jenin?

The Jenin operation began around 1 am on early Monday morning when Israel conducted drone strikes in Jenin and moved in with a brigade-size force of around 2,000 soldiers. 

Jenin is a known stronghold of Palestinian terrorist groups like the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). 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 UN facilities in the Palestinian settlement. 

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, reported The Times of Israel on Monday.

The 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.

The PIJ is the second-largest Palestinian terrorist group that's committed to the destruction of Israel. 

"PIJ is dedicated to eradicating Israel and establishing an autonomous Islamic Palestinian state in the lands currently comprising Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. PIJ believes that the land of Palestine is consecrated for Islam, that Israel usurped Palestine, and, therefore, that Israel is an affront to God and Islam and that Palestine’s re-conquest is a holy task," says think tank Counter Extremism Project (CEP) about PIJ.

"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.

The Israeli military has said that all of the 10 persons killed so far were terrorists. Earlier on Monday, photos of at least four were shared by the Arabic press with weapons.

The Associated Press quoted Israeli military spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari as saying on Monday that Israel had launched the operation in Jenin because some 50 attacks over the past year had emanated from Jenin.

In the year-long violence, Israel has carried out near-daily raids in West Bank in which Palestinian casualties have mounted. Israel says most of those killed have been militants, but stone-throwing youths protesting the incursions and people uninvolved in confrontations have also died, notes AP.

How long is the operation going to last?

While no clear timeline was given in the beginning and a report said that the operation could last for days and even weeks, there are no indications that it could end soon.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the operation is headed towards completion.

“At these moments we are completing the mission, and I can say that our extensive operation in Jenin is not a one-off. We will continue as long as necessary to cut out terrorism," said Netanyahu in a visit to an outpost on the outskirts of Jenin, as per AP.

The Israeli operation had been expected for weeks as Palestinian attacks had mounted in Israel and against Israeli settlers in the West Bank. Last month, at least nine Israelis were killed in Palestinian attacks in multiple terrorist attacks. 

Jenin had emerged as a "sanctuary" of Palestinian terrorists, according to Israeli National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi.

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.

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"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.

What do we know of Tel Aviv attack?

A Palestinian man drove his car into a crowded a bus stop in Tel Aviv on Tuesday and started stabbing people. 

Eight were injured in the car ramming-stabbing attack. Initially, Israel Police said in a tweeted that seven were injured, including three in serious condition. 

The Associated Press (AP) quoted police chief Kobe Shabtai as saying that an armed civilian shot dead the attacker.

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The attacker has been identified as 20-year old Abed al-Wahab Khalaila, according to The Times of Israel.

The Times of Israel reported the terrorist group Hamas as saying that Khalaila was a member but the group did not claim responsibility for the attack. The group nonetheless praised the attack. 

Photos of Khalaila have been shared by Arab social media users.

Hamas is the largest Palestinian terrorist group that runs Gaza Strip.  It is committed to the destruction of Israel.

"The group’s ideology blends Islamism and Palestinian nationalism and seeks the destruction of Israel and the creation of an Islamic state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River...Hamas views the entirety of the land of Mandate Palestine—excluding the 80 percent of Palestine that became modern-day Jordan—as an Islamic birthright that has been usurped. To that end, Hamas does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and has dedicated itself to violently seeking Israel’s destruction," says think tank Counter Extremism Project (CEP) about Hamas. 

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Terrorists fortified mosque, stored weapons there and built tunnels: IDF

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) have said that Palestinian terrorists in Jenin had fortified a mosque and had stored weapons there and built tunnels for movement. 

"The Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday accused Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank city of Jenin of turning a mosque into a 'fortified' hideout, complete with an underground tunnel and a cache of weapons," reported The Times of Israel.

The IDF shared visuals of weapons and of the inside of the mosque that also showed the opening of the tunnel. 

Referring to the PIJ, The Jerusalem Post quoted IDF as saying that one of the mosques was being used as the "command and control center specifically for Islamic Jihad".

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