US stands by Israel amid deadly West Bank incursion

Israeli military has launched large-scale air and ground attacks on Jenin

Palestinian medics take an injured person to hospital during the Israeli military operation in Jenin. AFP
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Washington on Monday underscored its support for Israel as the long-time US ally conducted a deadly, large-scale incursion into the West Bank.

“We support Israel’s security and right to defend its people against Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups,” a White House National Security Council representative told The National.

The Israeli army said it was striking targets in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin in an “extensive counter-terrorism” operation.

The US official added that Washington is “monitoring the situation closely”, amid reports that Israel's air and ground operation in Jenin had killed at least eight, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

Israel's army spokesman said “terrorist groups” were operating in the Jenin camp to “deliberately embed their military infrastructure in this densely populated urban area”.

He added that this included areas where internationally funded institutions, such as the UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees, are located.

This is the largest Israeli military operation since 2002, when forces occupied the camp after 10 days of intensive fighting, “destroying more than 400 houses, severely damaging hundreds more and displacing more than a quarter of the camp’s population”, according to the UN.

The Israeli ambassador to Washington defended the attack on Twitter, arguing that “over the past two years, Jenin has become a major hub of terrorism and an Iranian stronghold close to Israeli population centres”.

Washington's military partnership with Israel is a deep-rooted one, though American attitudes are shown to be softening towards Palestinians, according to recent polls.

The US support for the operation in Jenin comes despite an unusual amount of strain between the centre-left administration of President Joe Biden and Israel's new far-right government.

After Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened the ousting of a defence minister opposed to a controversial judicial reform measure, the White House said it was “deeply concerned”.

Despite the Biden administration's support of Israel, some progressive Jewish-American organisations expressed alarm over Monday's developments.

Americans For Peace Now said it was "dismayed at the rapid escalation of violence in the West Bank" and "is alarmed at the harm caused to Palestinian civilians and calls on Israel to exercise extra care in protecting noncombatants”.

"The use of military force may capture or kill some Palestinian militants, but it also further radicalises their younger brothers, who will take their place with greater motivation for liberation and vengeance," the organisation's president and chief executive Hadar Susskind said in a statement.

Updated: July 03, 2023, 6:31 PM