ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 142

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Military uses suicide drone against gunmen

Three Hamas members nabbed by IDF in first Jenin refugee camp raid in 2 months

Officials say trio behind string of shootings, bombing attacks in West Bank; one involved in launching rockets at settlements and towns bordering security barrier

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Palestinians inspect a damaged house after an Israeli military raid in the West Bank city of Jenin, September 4, 2023. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)
Palestinians inspect a damaged house after an Israeli military raid in the West Bank city of Jenin, September 4, 2023. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

The Israeli military arrested three members of the Hamas terror group during a raid in the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank on Monday morning, marking the first overt entry of forces to the camp since a major operation was carried out in the area two months ago.

In a joint statement, the Israel Defense Forces, Shin Bet security agency, and Border Police said troops entered the camp and nabbed Abdullah Hassan Mohammed Sobeh, Ward Sharim, and Mus’ab Ja’aydah.

Security officials said Sobeh, a senior member of Hamas from the West Bank town of Burqin — close to Jenin — had been wanted by Israel for months for his involvement in a string of attacks.

Sobeh was accused of being involved in shootings, pipe bomb attacks, vehicle-borne explosive device attacks, and the firing of improvised rockets at West Bank settlements and Israeli towns from the Jenin area.

A group calling itself Al-Ayyash Battalion — apparently named for a notorious Hamas bombmaker killed by Israel — has claimed to have launched several rockets at settlements and towns in northern Israel in recent months, publishing footage of the mostly unsuccessful attempts.

Military sources described Sobeh as one of the better-known names on the defense establishment’s wanted list, with the army having long attempted to apprehend him, and said he was behind significant attacks such as rocket fire in recent months and a botched car bomb near the settlement of Mevo Dotan last year.

The other two suspects, Sharim and Ja’aydah, were involved in shooting attacks in the West Bank and planning further attacks, the statement said.

The IDF said troops opened fire at the wanted gunmen as they attempted to flee a building when the forces arrived. One of the armed Palestinians shot in the leg and seriously wounded, and was taken by helicopter to Rambam Hospital in Haifa.

An assault rifle belonging to one of the wanted Palestinians was seized, the IDF said.

The IDF said troops also responded with live fire against Palestinian gunmen who opened fire at forces in the area, and Palestinian rioters hurling stones.

A local wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group said its gunmen opened fire at Israeli forces on the outskirts of the camp.

The military also used a suicide drone in the Jenin refugee camp against a group of Palestinian gunmen.

Images of the debris from the crashed drone posted by Palestinian media outlets showed parts of a Rafael SPIKE FireFly loitering munition, which has been used previously by Israeli forces.

The Palestinian Authority health ministry said four people were lightly wounded by Israeli fire in the area and taken to nearby hospitals.

No Israeli soldiers were wounded in the operation.

The IDF last entered the Jenin camp in early July for a major two-day incursion targeting the local Islamic Jihad wing, as well as other smaller armed groups.

During the campaign, involving over 1,000 ground troops and the air force, the IDF said forces located and demolished at least eight weapon storage sites, six explosives labs with hundreds of primed devices, three war rooms used by Palestinian gunmen to observe Israeli forces, and other “terror infrastructure.”

Palestinian health officials said 14 people were killed and more than 100 were wounded during Israeli airstrikes and in clashes with Israeli forces between July 3 and 5.

According to the IDF, all of the slain Palestinians were involved in the fighting, but there were some noncombatants among the wounded.

One IDF soldier was killed by “friendly fire” as troops began to withdraw from Jenin.

Israeli forces have operated in Jenin, the adjacent city, since the operation, including in late July, but have avoided entering the refugee camp.

Palestinians walk on a damaged road in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, July 5, 2023, after the Israeli army withdrew its forces from the terror stronghold. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Violence has surged across the West Bank over the past year and a half, with a rise in Palestinian shooting attacks against Israeli civilians and troops, near-nightly arrest raids by the military, and an uptick in revenge attacks by extremist Jewish settlers against Palestinians.

Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank since the beginning of the year have left 27 civilians and three soldiers dead, and several others seriously wounded.

According to a tally by The Times of Israel, 178 West Bank Palestinians have been killed during the same period — the vast majority of them during clashes with security forces or while carrying out attacks, but some were uninvolved civilians and others were killed under unclear circumstances, including by armed Israeli settlers.

According to fresh figures provided by the defense establishment on Thursday, security forces have carried out more than 2,000 arrest operations in the West Bank and foiled more than 470 terror attacks since the beginning of the year.

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