Israel ends brutal military operation against Palestinians, leaving Jenin in ruins
Jenin, West Bank - Israel's army Wednesday declared the end of a brutal military operation in the occupied West Bank which killed 12 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier over the previous two days.
The raid, involving hundreds of forces, drone strikes, and armored bulldozers, targeted the northern West Bank city of Jenin.
Amid the days of violence against civilians there, a Palestinian attacker in Tel Aviv on Tuesday wounded seven Israelis, two seriously, in a car ramming and stabbing attack before he was shot dead by an armed civilian.
And overnight, Israel carried out air strikes on targets inside the blockaded Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire from the Palestinian coastal enclave, with no deaths reported.
As the army pulled out of Jenin from late Tuesday, much of the crowded city was left charred and in rubble, with at least 3,000 residents displaced.
Israel says its adjacent refugee camp, a tiny and crowded urban area home to 18,000 people, has long been a stronghold of militant groups including Islamic Jihad and Hamas.
"The operation is officially over and the soldiers have left the Jenin area," said an army spokesman Wednesday after columns of armored vehicles were seen pulling out.
Israel has declared "open war" on Palestinians
Jenin residents inspected the widespread destruction in the camp, where gaping holes were torn into buildings, cars were crushed and the ground was littered with bullet casings and broken glass.
Israel's right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has labelled Jenin and its refugee camp a "terrorist nest", and the army said it had seized arms and explosives depots and militant logistic sites.
The Palestinians labelled the escalation there an act of "open war against the people of Jenin".
Israel has occupied the West Bank since the Six-Day War of 1967 and built many settlements – illegal under international law – in the area that Palestinians regard as the core of the independent state they are seeking.
Excluding annexed east Jerusalem, the territory is now home to around 490,000 Israelis living in settlements –- a number that far-right nationalist groups within Netanyahu's coalition government are working to increase.
The Palestinians want Israel to withdraw from all land seized in 1967 and to dismantle all Jewish settlements. Netanyahu, however, has pledged to "strengthen settlements" and expressed no interest in reviving peace talks, which have been moribund since 2014.
Human rights organizations slam Israeli assaults
The Israeli army has been launching almost daily raids into the West Bank.
The brutality has further escalated since Netanyahu's government took over late last year, with attacks concentrated in the northern West Bank area.
During the latest raid on the Jenin camp, the army said it had uncovered militant hideouts, arms depots, and explosives manufacturing facilities.
The Jenin clashes sparked renewed international concern.
"The killing, maiming and the destruction of property must stop," UN human rights chief Volker Turk said on Tuesday.
Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, praised the "heroic" attack in Tel Aviv as "an initial response to crimes against our people in the Jenin camp".
Medical charity Doctors Without Borders condemned Israeli forces for firing tear gas inside Jenin's Khalil Suleiman hospital, calling it "unacceptable".
Palestinian health minister Mai al-Kaila accused the army of shooting at Palestinians in Jenin public hospital's courtyard, saying it marked a moment when "Israel's aggression reached its climax".
The Israeli army said reports on the incident are "not currently known to security forces" but insisted, as it always does, that "terrorist organizations have exploited civilian areas as a hideout".
At least 190 Palestinians, 26 Israelis, one Ukrainian and one Italian have been killed this year, according to an AFP tally compiled from official sources from both sides.
Cover photo: REUTERS