Israeli forces withdraw from Jenin after two-day assault

Ground and air operation on West Bank city left at least 10 dead and more than 100 wounded

Israeli troops travel to the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank.  Reuters
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Israeli troops began withdrawing from the West Bank city of Jenin on Tuesday night after a two-day assault that killed at least 10 Palestinians and injured more than 100.

"Israeli forces have started withdrawing from Jenin camp," an army spokesman told AFP late on Tuesday night, without further details.

It came hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the military was "completing the mission".

Fighting between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants in the city and its refugee camp continued throughout Tuesday, as the military continued its "counter-terrorism" operation against militant groups.

“At this moment we are completing the mission and I can say our widescale action in Jenin is not a one-time thing,” Mr Netanyahu said during a visit to a military post near the city in the north of the occupied West Bank.

Footage shared on Twitter by Israeli channels later on Tuesday showed convoys of armoured vehicles withdrawing.

"In the past two years [Jenin became] a factory for terror. In the past two days, this ended," Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said.

The military sent about 1,000 troops and launched more than 20 air strikes during the operation, which drew widespread condemnation for endangering civilians in the densely populated camp.

UN human rights chief Volker Turk said the use of air strikes was "inconsistent with rules applicable to the conduct of law enforcement operations".

An Israeli army spokesman on Tuesday morning told The National that forces had arrested 120 suspected terrorists of the 160 that were being pursued.

The death toll stood at 10 Palestinians, with more than 100 wounded, 20 critically, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

The Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group said four of the dead were its fighters.

Hamas, the militant group that rules the Gaza Strip, claimed one of the dead, but the identity of the others was not clear.

Israeli officials said they were not aware of any civilian deaths, but Vanessa Huguenin, spokeswoman for the UN's humanitarian office, said three children were among those killed.

“We are alarmed at the scale of air and ground operations that are taking place in Jenin in the occupied West Bank, and air strikes hitting a densely populated refugee camp,” Ms Huguenin said.

An Israeli soldier was killed after being shot in Jenin on Tuesday evening, the military said.

It said the soldier was treated at the scene, before being taken to a hospital where he was declared dead.

In Cairo, permanent representatives to the Arab League met in an emergency session requested by the Palestinian delegation to discuss the operation.

The envoys resolved to send letters urging UN Security Council members to work towards halting Israeli aggression against Palestinians.

They also urged the International Criminal Court to complete its investigation into what it referred to as war crimes by Israel against the Palestinian people.

The World Health Organisation said first responders had been prevented from entering the refugee camp, leaving some critically injured without care.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said its team had been working for 15 hours “and patients keep coming in”.

“Raids on Jenin camp have started to follow a familiar pattern – ambulances have been rammed by armoured cars and patients and healthcare staff have routinely been denied entry and egress to the camp,” said Jovana Arsenijevic, MSF operations co-ordinator.

“This is an unprecedentedly long military operation and yet there are still victims that cannot be reached. Healthcare staff must be allowed to access patients unhindered.”

MSF said it had treated at least 55 people for gunshot wounds.

Ms Arsenijevic called Israel's use of “attack helicopters and drone strikes” in populated areas “nothing short of outrageous”.

'Terrifying' strikes

On Monday, Mr Netanyahu named the raid “Operation Home and Garden”, speaking at the US embassy's Fourth of July ceremony. It will go on “as necessary”, he said.

“In recent months, Jenin has become a safe haven for terrorists," he said.

Israel claims it seized a cache of weapons belonging to the various armed groups in Jenin, as residents began to flee their homes.

Deputy governor of Jenin Kamal Abu Al Roub told AFP that about 3,000 people had fled their homes since the beginning of the raid on Monday.

“The strikes are terrifying. We were informed to leave by the paramedics,” an elderly woman told local outlet Quds Feed.

“We didn't take anything. We just got dressed and left.”

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres's spokesman said he was “deeply concerned about the developments in Jenin”.

Farhan Haq said Mr Guterres “affirms that all military operations must be conducted with full respect for international humanitarian law”.

“Israel is able to carry out security operations, it has to do so in such a way that avoids civilian casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure,” he said, responding to a question about Israel's right to defend itself.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he was suspending security co-ordination with Israel.

Israel had earlier said that it had co-ordinated with Palestinian intelligence on the operation.

Updated: July 05, 2023, 5:22 AM