Israel launches raids on several West Bank cities a day before Ramadan

The operations come during a surge in deadly violence between Israelis and Palestinians

Israeli soldiers on March 19 on patrol in the town of Huwara, in the occupied West Bank, after a shooting in the area. AFP
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Israeli forces launched wide-ranging raids on cities in the occupied West Bank, including Ramallah, Nablus, Jericho and Bethlehem, a day before Ramadan begins on Thursday.

Israeli and Palestinian media reported that 26 people had been detained during the raids

In Ramallah, Israeli forces fired tear gas near a hospital, close to the residence of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, activist Younis Tirawi claimed.

In Jericho, forces used tear gas and arrested one person, while at least one person was wounded by gunfire, Palestinian media said.

Footage on social media purports to show Israeli troops stationed in front of the city’s main police station, with claims that tens of armoured vehicles entered the area.

Palestinian media also published footage of mosque loudspeakers calling for residents to take to the streets and resist the Israeli operation.

In Hebron, more than 50 military vehicles entered, allegedly arresting four people, Mr Tirawi claimed on social media.

In Nablus, Israeli media reported that forces were preparing on Wednesday morning to demolish the home of a Palestinian Hamas member who killed two Israeli settlers near the West Bank town of Hawara.

On Tuesday, Israel’s Defence Minister said Israel’s next war could involve several fronts. "The privilege Israel had of saying it will only fight a war in Gaza or parts of the West Bank is ending,” he said.

On Monday, Israel said it published rules for Palestinians seeking to pray at Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque, in a bid to quell tension during the potentially tense month of Ramadan.

The plans mean all women can have access to the compound without a permit. For males, children under the age of 12 and those over 55 would no longer need a permit to travel from the West Bank.

Stricter rules apply for those coming from Gaza.

Israeli authorities said the plans will be reassessed on a constant basis throughout the month.

Ambassador meeting

The raids come after the US made the rare decision to summon Israel's ambassador to Washington over Israel's advancement of legislation that would pave the way for settlers to re-enter areas in the north of the occupied West Bank.

The outposts surround Nablus and Jenin, which have become a centre of a new generation of Palestinian militancy over the past 18 months.

A readout published by US officials after the unscheduled meeting spoke of "US concern" and the "importance of all parties refraining from actions or rhetoric that could further inflame tensions leading into the Ramadan, Passover, and Easter holidays".

This week, Israel's far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich drew widespread condemnation for saying that Palestinians were a historical "invention".

It followed earlier calls from the minister that the Palestinian town of Hawara should be "wiped out", for which he later apologised.

On Wednesday, the UAE's Muslim Council of Elders strongly condemned Mr Smotrich's comments denying the historical existence of Palestinians, as well as his use of a map of Israel that includes Jordanian and Palestinian territory.

In Amman, Jordan's parliament recommended the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador to the kingdom, in response to Mr Smotrich's actions. The move is symbolic as parliament in Jordan has no jurisdiction over foreign policy.

On Wednesday, Jordan's parliament displayed a flag of the region that replaced Israel with the colours of the Jordanian and Palestinian flags, in response to the Israeli minister's comments.

Updated: March 22, 2023, 3:36 PM