Palestinians in occupied WestBank say Israel bombing "innocent people" in raid on Jenin refugee camp
Israel carried out drone strikes and deployed hundreds of troops Monday in the city of Jenin, in the occupied West Bank, in what one Israeli official called the largest operation in the area in almost two decades. At least nine Palestinians were killed in the raid and 50 were injured, according to Palestinian health officials, as gun battles were reported in the streets of a sprawling refugee camp in Jenin.
A spokesman for the Israeli Army, Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, said the goal of the operation was to confiscate or destroy weapons belonging to Palestinian militants. The Associated Press quoted Hecht as saying the raid began at 1:00 a.m. Monday morning with an airstrike on a building in the Jenin refugee camp that he said was being used by militants to plan attacks.
Hecht said the raid continued with more strikes to clear the way for approximately 2,000 Israeli ground forces. He said that, though Israel had carried out strikes in Jenin in recent weeks, this was the largest escalation since 2006.
The sound of gunfire and the buzzing of drones could be heard on the streets of the camp, and black smoke rose into the air above it. The Palestinian news agency Wafa said Israeli forces bulldozed roads and a memorial for the refugee camp's dead. It said a child was injured by shrapnel.
Israel has blamed multiple attacks targeting Israelis this year on Palestinian militants operating in the Jenin refugee camp, and the camp had been raided several times before Monday's large-scale operation.
Israeli police said Monday afternoon, as the operation in the West Bank continued, that they had arrested a 16-year-old Palestinian boy from Jenin who stabbed an Israeli man in the Jewish Orthodox city of Bnei Brak. The Israeli man, who was in his 20s, was hospitalized with light to moderate injuries, police said.
The Jenin refugee camp was set up to house Palestinians who were displaced during the 1948-1949 Arab-Israeli war, and is currently home to about 14,000 people, according to the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency. The raids have prompted fears civilians could become caught in the crossfire, and the U.N. said it was mobilizing humanitarian aid.
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said the raids were targeting specific "proxies of Iran," such as Islamic Jihad and Hamas, and that Israel was "not planning to hold ground" in the West Bank.
"Due to the terror organization and the funds they receive from Iran, the Jenin camp has become a center for terrorist activity," Cohen said.
But Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh called the raid "a new attempt to destroy the camp and displace its people," according to CBS News' partner network BBC News. "Our heroic people will confront this aggression that is taking place under the eyes of the international community, where innocent people are bombed by planes. Our people will not kneel and will not surrender, and we will remain in confrontation until this criminal occupation is over."
Separately on Monday, a Palestinian was killed in a protest against the Jenin raid near the West Bank city of Ramallah.
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