ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 138

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Over 500 arrested in West Bank since start of Gaza war

Israeli border officer, 13 Palestinians killed in West Bank clashes, airstrike

Nine other border police troops injured; rare drone strike hits gunmen in Nur Shams refugee camp, 2 Palestinians killed in fighting elsewhere

IDF vehicles in the Nur Shams Palestinian refugee camp on April 10, 2022, during a raid looking for terror suspects. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)
IDF vehicles in the Nur Shams Palestinian refugee camp on April 10, 2022, during a raid looking for terror suspects. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

An Israeli officer was killed and nine others were injured in intense clashes with Palestinian gunmen in a refugee camp near the West Bank city of Tulkarem Thursday, Israeli authorities said.

Israel carried out a rare drone strike during the fighting in the Nur Shams camp, killing several Palestinians amid wide unrest in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority said.

Master Sgt. Maxim Razinkov was fatally wounded by an improvised explosive device that was hurled at Border Police forces carrying out an arrest raid in the camp. Another nine officers were lightly wounded, police said.

The Palestinian health ministry reported that 12 Palestinians were killed in the drone strike and in other clashes on Thursday, with another one killed in overnight fighting. Two more Palestinians were killed in clashes elsewhere in the West Bank.

Israeli security forces arrested at least 10 wanted Palestinians, according to the Israel Defense Forces and police.

Police said officers battled Palestinian gunmen in the area, and demolished several explosive devices that were intended to have been used against the forces.

Master Sgt. Maxim Razinkov (Israel Police)

According to the IDF, the drone strike was carried out after an armed cell was identified near the forces.

In separate clashes earlier Thursday, the Palestinian health ministry said Israeli forces shot dead a 17-year-old in the Dheisheh refugee camp, near Bethlehem, and a 32-year-old in Budrus to the west of Ramallah.

In Budrus, the Israeli military said people “hurled Molotov cocktails and other objects” and burned tires and dumpsters, prompting soldiers to open fire.

 

Also overnight, the IDF said it had demolished the home of a Hamas terrorist who killed Israeli soldier Staff Sgt. Shilo Yosef Amir in the West Bank in July.

Footage showed an excavator destroying the home of Ahmed Yassin Ghaidan in the village of Qibya in the central West Bank.

In August, the Israel Defense Forces said it had notified Ghaidan’s family that their home was slated for demolition.

As a matter of policy, Israel regularly demolishes the homes of Palestinians accused of carrying out deadly terror attacks.

Ghaidan opened fire and killed Amir near the settlement of Kedumim on July 6, before being shot dead by other security forces.

The West Bank has seen several clashes between IDF forces and Palestinians in recent days, and several attempted Palestinian terror attacks, according to the army.

While attention has largely been focused on Israel’s borders with the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, tensions have risen considerably in the West Bank since thousands of Hamas gunmen surged into southern Israel from Gaza on October 7, slaughtering some 1,400 Israelis, most of them civilians. Israel has launched a campaign to eliminate the terror group, with over 3,700 people killed in its airstrikes in Gaza so far, according to health authorities in the Hamas-run Strip.

Hamas has repeatedly urged Palestinians in the West Bank to rise up against Israel in support of the terror group’s cause.

Tuesday night saw mass unrest in the West Bank as Palestinians raged over a deadly blast at a Gaza hospital that Hamas blamed on an Israeli strike, though Israel has denied responsibility and growing evidence points to a misfired Palestinian rocket aimed at Israel as the culprit.

Hamas called for attacks against Israeli forces as, across the West Bank, thousands of people took to the streets to protest the explosion. Palestinian forces in Ramallah fired tear gas at demonstrators who had gathered, calling for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to step down for insufficiently supporting Hamas.

Videos showed protesters in Ramallah chanting, “The people want the fall of the president.”

Palestinians lift national flags and placards during a demonstration in Ramallah in the west Bank on October 18, 2023 (YURI CORTEZ / AFP)

Israel has provided mounting evidence showing that a rocket launched at Israel by Palestinian Islamic Jihad misfired and hit the hospital parking lot. Islamic Jihad denied it caused the explosion. Visiting Israel, US President Joe Biden endorsed the Israeli account, saying his conclusion was based on US Defense Department information.

The IDF said Thursday that troops had arrested 524 wanted Palestinians across the West Bank, including more than 330 affiliated with Hamas, since the war in the Gaza Strip began on October 7.

Over the past day, 63 Hamas members were arrested, the military said.

Last week, UN monitors said the first week of the conflict with Gaza had been the deadliest week for Palestinians in the West Bank since at least 2005, with 55 Palestinians killed in clashes with Israeli troops, arrest raids and attacks by Jewish settlers, according to the Palestinian Authority’s health ministry.

In total, at least 81 West Bank Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and settlers since October 7, according to the ministry.

Palestinian protesters push a dumpster to be used for cover during clashes with Israeli forces following a rally in solidarity with Gaza by supporters of the Fatah and Hamas movements, in the city of Hebron in the West Bank on October 13, 2023.(HAZEM BADER / AFP)

Since Hamas’s mass incursion into southern Israel, in which terrorists burst across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea, killing some 1,400 people, and abducting at least 203 hostages of all ages, Israeli forces have held the West Bank under a tight grip, closing crossings into the territory and checkpoints between cities, measures they say are aimed at preventing attacks.

The vast majority of those killed on October 7 as the Hamas gunmen seized Israeli border communities were civilians — men, women, children and the elderly. Entire families were executed in their homes, and over 260 were slaughtered at an outdoor festival, many amid horrific acts of brutality by the terrorists, in what Biden has highlighted as “the worst massacre of the Jewish people since the Holocaust.”

There have been several clashes between IDF forces and Palestinians in the West Bank in the days since, with the army reporting over 10 attempted terror attacks.

The renewed crackdown comes as Israel is concerned about the conflict escalating into a multi-front war, particularly the possibility of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah terror organization joining the battle.

An Israeli Border Policeman holds a Palestinian flag taken from Palestinians during clashes following a demonstration in support of the Gaza Strip in the West Bank city of Nablus, Oct. 13, 2023. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

But Palestinians claim the latest Israeli measures in the West Bank have only further blurred the line between security forces and radical, violent settlers. Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, a far-right settler with a long history of anti-Arab incitement, responded to the Hamas attack by authorizing the distribution of more weaponry to the settler population and tasking settlers with security.

In a statement after the Hamas massacres in southern Israel, he said his office was distributing 10,000 firearms, as well as combat gear, protective vests and helmets, to Israeli civilians — with a particular focus on residents of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

“We will change the world so that the settlements will be protected,” he said. “I have ordered the massive arming of the civilian standby units in order to protect the settlements and the cities.”

Since then, settlers have been accused of shooting Palestinians dead in several instances whose circumstances have yet to be clarified.

An image that appears to show masked settlers near the West Bank village of Qusra, October 11, 2023. (Screenshot, X used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The UN said last month that 1,100 Palestinians had been displaced by settler violence in the last year, an unprecedented figure. Over the last few days, around 200 to 300 Palestinians have been displaced, often by settlers who are armed, according to the West Bank Protection Consortium, a coalition of aid groups and donor countries, including the European Union, that support Palestinian communities.

Most of the attacks come from settler outposts established without government authorization but protected by the Israeli army.

Over 500,000 Jewish settlers live in nearly 150 settlements across the West Bank, which is home to some 2.5 million Palestinians. Most of the international community views settlements as illegal and a major obstacle to peace.

Israel captured the West Bank, along with Gaza and East Jerusalem, in the 1967 Six Day War. The Palestinians want the territories for their future state.

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