IDF says sniper likely mistakenly killed Palestinian girl during Jenin raid

Citing initial investigation, military says Jana Zakarna, 16, apparently was near gunmen who were shooting at troops from rooftops

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

Palestinians carry the body of Jana Zakarna, 16, during her funeral in the West Bank city of Jenin, December 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
Palestinians carry the body of Jana Zakarna, 16, during her funeral in the West Bank city of Jenin, December 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

The Israel Defense Forces said it believed with “high probability” that a soldier accidentally shot and killed a teenage Palestinian girl during a battle with Palestinian gunmen in the northern West Bank city of Jenin late Sunday.

The girl, Jana Majdi Assam Zakarna, 16, was found dead on the roof of her home with a gunshot wound to the head after the Israeli troops withdrew from Jenin, according to the official Palestinian news agency WAFA.

The IDF, citing an initial probe of the shooting, said a Border Police sniper fired at Palestinian gunmen who were shooting at soldiers from rooftops during the raid.

“Following a preliminary investigation, it was found that there is indeed a high probability that the girl who was killed was hit by an accidental shot fired at armed men on a roof in the area, from which shots were fired at the forces,” the IDF said in a statement Monday afternoon.

“It appears the girl who was killed had been on the roof of one of the houses near the gunmen,” the military said.

The IDF dismissed claims that the teen was shot on purpose as “unfounded and baseless.”

The military was also probing if Zakarna had possibly aided the gunmen by observing or filming the Israeli forces during the raid.

Jana Majdi Assam Zakarna, 16, who was killed amid a gun battle between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank city of Jenin, December 11, 2022. (Social media)

Earlier Monday, outgoing Defense Minister Benny Gantz expressed sorrow over the death of Zakarna.

“First, I express my sorrow for her death, as for any death of someone who was not involved in terrorism, if that was indeed the case,” Gantz said at a faction meeting of his National Unity party.

He said the raid was aimed at arresting Palestinians suspected of recent shooting attacks and those involved in terror organizations.

“The matter is under investigation and I can assure you of one thing, unlike those who stand by the roads with weapons, stones, and Molotov cocktails, waiting for an opportunity to murder Israeli girls and boys, women, elderly and children, IDF soldiers do not shoot deliberately at uninvolved people,” Gantz said.

“The IDF will continue to act to thwart terrorism, anywhere and at any time, while adhering to the open-fire rules,” he said. “The commanders and soldiers have full support to continue to fulfill their mission with professionalism and determination.”

Three other Palestinians were reported wounded in the clashes, which included live fire and explosives, as Israeli troops and Border Police officers, some of them undercover, raided a Jenin business late Sunday.

A spokesperson for the Border Police confirmed that troops opened fire and said three terror suspects were arrested during the late-night operation.

“Following the arrests, violent riots broke out, including live fire and explosives from various ranges directed at [Israeli] forces,” a Border Police spokesman said said in a statement. “The undercover officers, Border Police troops and Israel Defense Forces soldiers returned fire toward the terrorists.”

Footage shared on social media showed troops emerging from a van and entering a storefront, then emerging with Palestinians whose hands are bound.

Heavy gunfire could be heard in the clips, and explosions could be heard in other videos from the city, including one that appeared to show a bomb going off next to a military jeep.

No Israeli troops were injured, police said.

A local wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group confirmed opening fire and hurling explosives at Israeli troops.

The three arrested suspects were handed over to the Shin Bet security service, and an M16 rifle used by the Palestinians was seized, Israel said.

Tensions have been high in the West Bank over the past year, with the IDF conducting an ongoing major anti-terror offensive mostly focused on the northern West Bank to deal with a series of Palestinian attacks.

The operation has netted more than 2,500 arrests in near-nightly raids, but has also left more than 165 Palestinians dead, many of them — but not all — while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces.

In overnight arrest raids, troops arrested 18 wanted Palestinians, including the three in Jenin, the IDF said Monday morning.

An M16 rifle seized by Israeli forces during a raid in Jenin on December 11, 2022. (Police Spokesperson)

Many deadly clashes have occurred in the Jenin and Nablus area, where Israel’s forces have concentrated most arrest operations.

On Thursday, three Palestinian gunmen were killed during a gun battle with Israeli forces in Jenin. A week earlier, another two Palestinian terror operatives were killed in similar clashes in the West Bank city.

In recent months, Palestinian gunmen have also repeatedly targeted military posts, troops operating along the West Bank security barrier, Israeli settlements and civilians on the roads.

The IDF has recorded around 300 shooting attacks and attempts against Israeli civilians and soldiers in the West Bank this year, compared to 91 last year.

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