The Hamas terror group on Monday called on Palestinians to join the fighting after the Israel Defense Forces launched a major anti-terror offensive in the West Bank city of Jenin, as Gaza-based terrorists threatened to send volleys of rockets flying toward Israeli cities.
“Our people and their resistance everywhere know how to respond to this barbaric aggression,” Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said in a statement hours after Israel kicked off the campaign, its largest offensive in the West Bank in some 20 years.
Jenin is seen as a hotbed of terror activity, and the operation, involving some 1,000 troops, came in response to a series of deadly attacks emanating from Jenin and the surrounding areas.
Palestinian health officials said eight people were killed and at least 27 others were wounded during fighting with Israeli forces.
“We call on our people throughout the West Bank to stand by Jenin and defend its people in order to thwart the enemy’s plan,” Haniyeh said in a statement.
“The blood being shed in Jenin will determine the nature of the next stage in all directions,” said Haniyeh, whose group rules from Gaza, but maintains pockets of support in the West Bank, which is dominated by rival Fatah.
Senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Ziad Nakhleh called the IDF operation in Jenin a “massacre” and said the Gaza-based, Iran-backed terror group will respond.
“What is happening in Jenin is a massacre by the enemy against the Palestinian people,” Nakhleh said. “The Palestinian resistance and the Al-Quds brigades will respond to put a halt to this massacre.”
Over the past year, Islamic Jihad has launched rockets at Israel from the Gaza Strip in response to members being killed or arrested in the West Bank.
Near Gaza, the IDF ordered organizers to cancel a performance by singers Pe’er Tasi and E-Z that was set to take place in Sderot on Monday evening, “to take extra precautions,” it said.
There were no other changes to instructions for residents of Gaza border communities and southern Israel during the operation in the West Bank, the IDF said.
Saleh al-Arouri, deputy head of the political bureau of Hamas, referenced the failed launch of a rocket from the Jenin area last week, urging West Bank Palestinians to join the fight in Jenin.
“We are ready to sacrifice our lives, and the enemy’s threats do not scare us. We will strike the enemy at the time and place of our choosing, and by any means, whether with stones, bullets or rockets, like the Kassam that was launched a few days ago from Jenin,” he said.
“Those who responded to the crimes of the occupation in the West Bank belong to all factions of the resistance, and are fighting together as one body, even if the statements are issued by different groups,” he said, claiming there were already “hundreds of thousands willing to sacrifice their lives.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called for the Palestinian leadership to hold an “urgent meeting” on the Jenin operation, the official Wafa news agency reported.
The agency also said that the PA and Jordan have held talks on the matter.
Earlier, Jordan condemned “Israeli aggression” in Jenin and called on the international community to pressure Israel to stop the operation before the situation “explodes.”
A spokesperson for Abbas described the operation as a “war crime.”
“What the Israeli occupation government is doing in the city of Jenin and its camp is a new war crime against our defenseless people,” said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, according to Wafa.
He said the Palestinian people “will remain steadfast on their land in the face of this brutal aggression until the occupation is defeated and freedom is achieved.”
“All these crimes committed by the occupation government and its terrorist settlers will not achieve security and stability for them unless our Palestinian people also feel them,” Abu Rudeineh said.
He called on the international community “to break its shameful silence and take serious action to compel Israel to stop its aggression against our Palestinian people, and to hold it accountable for all these crimes.”
Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.