Jordan and Egypt condemned Israel on Monday for launching a major military operation in the West Bank city of Jenin and its adjoining refugee camp, warning that aggressive actions could escalate the already volatile situation.
The UN humanitarian coordinator also expressed “alarm” over the incursion, with Israeli diplomats around the world told to push explanatory messages of why the army had gone in and what it aimed to achieve.
Over 1,000 IDF troops were said to be involved in the campaign that started early Monday, which appeared to be the largest in the West Bank in years with tensions already sky-high following a series of deadly terror attacks carried out by Palestinians from the Jenin area.
Palestinian health officials said eight people were killed and at least 27 were wounded, including seven listed in serious condition, during the strikes and in clashes with Israeli forces.
One Israeli soldier was lightly hurt during the operation. The IDF said the serviceman was hit by shrapnel from a grenade hurled by other Israeli forces.
Jordan issued a statement condemning “Israeli aggression” and calling on the international community to pressure Israel to stop the operation before the situation “explodes.”
According to Jordan’s Foreign Ministry, Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi spoke with senior Palestinian Authority official Hussein Al-Sheikh to condemn the operation, calling it “a dangerous escalation that would set off wide cycles of violence.”
Safadi added that “the repeated Israeli attacks on Palestinian cities will only contribute to increasing tension, which is also fueled by illegal Israeli measures that undermine the two-state solution and kill hope in the chances of achieving a just and comprehensive peace.”
Jordan’s top diplomat also called on Israel to engage in negotiations to bring about a two-state solution.
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement expressing objection to “Israeli aggression against Palestinian cities and the innocent civilian victims.”
The ministry warned of the “serious dangers” posed by what it described as continued Israeli escalations of violence against the Palestinians. It called on the international community “to put an end to these violations and to provide protection for the Palestinian people, whose suffering is increasing every day.”
The United Nations humanitarian coordinator for the West Bank and Gaza, Lynn Hastings, tweeted she was “alarmed” by the scale of the operation and said that “airstrikes were used in the densely populated refugee camp.”
“Access to all injured must be ensured,” Hastings said, adding that her office was “mobilizing humanitarian partners to provide assistance.”
The White House weighed into the Jenin raid for the first time later Monday, with a National Security Council spokesperson saying in a statement that the US backs “Israel’s security and right to defend its people against Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other terrorist groups.”
An official at Israel’s Foreign Ministry who asked not to be named told The Times of Israel that its diplomats around the world were pushing messages about the Jenin operation to highlight certain key points.
Diplomats are stressing that the Jenin refugee camp has become a “center for terrorist activity” and that it shelters those responsible for carrying out terror attacks against both the civilian population and security forces, according to the official.
Forces are fighting “to eradicate terrorism” and are operating “in a targeted manner,” diplomats are explaining, stressing that the IDF is making “a conscious effort to prevent harm to the local civilian population.”
Israel’s delegation to the EU tweeted that “in the heart of Jenin, surrounded by schools and medical centers, lies a terrorist infrastructure, serving as an arsenal of weapons and explosives and as a coordination center for attacks on Israeli civilians.”
“Israel acts against terror elements which disrupt the stability and security of the region, while weakening the Palestinian Authority,” it continued. “The State of Israel does not tolerate terrorist attacks against its citizens and acts resolutely to dismantle these threats.”
In the heart of Jenin, surrounded by schools and medical centers, lies a terrorist infrastructure, serving as an arsenal of weapons and explosives and as a coordination center for attacks on Israeli civilians.#Israel acts against terror elements which disrupt the stability and… pic.twitter.com/lCM5wcet1H
— Israel in the EU (@IsraelinEU) July 3, 2023
Palestinians reported that residents had been sent text messages asking them to remain indoors, while some members of armed groups had received texts urging them to lay down their arms and turn themselves in.
IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told reporters that the operation was focused on the Jenin refugee camp and was “part of a series of actions that we carry out and will continue to carry out.”
“We did not come to occupy the refugee camp. This is not an operation against the Palestinian Authority but against the terror groups in Jenin,” he said.
For weeks there had been speculation about a major Israeli military operation in the West Bank, following a string of shooting attacks and intense resistance to IDF raids in Palestinian cities.
The northern West Bank, and especially the city of Jenin and its environs, has long been considered by the IDF as hotbeds of terrorism, highlighted by a string of attacks in early 2022 of which many were carried out by residents of the area.
Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have been high across the West Bank for the past year and a half, with the military carrying out near-nightly raids, amid a series of deadly Palestinian terror attacks.
Since the beginning of this year, Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank have killed 24 people.
According to a tally by The Times of Israel, 143 West Bank Palestinians have been killed during that time, most of them during clashes with security forces or while carrying out attacks, but some were uninvolved civilians and others were killed under unclear circumstances.