More large raids planned for Jenin, army says, as Israel vows to press offensive

Troops question over 100 suspects, locate hundreds of weapons and explosives, carry out over 20 drone strikes during first day of anti-terror campaign

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

Israeli troops operate in the West Bank city of Jenin, July 3, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
Israeli troops operate in the West Bank city of Jenin, July 3, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

A major military operation in the northern West Bank city of Jenin, which saw some of the heaviest fighting in the area in two decades, will not be a one-off raid, a top general said Monday.

Throughout the operation on Monday, Israel Defense Forces troops who entered Jenin located weapon storage sites, explosives labs, and other “terror infrastructure,” clashed with armed Palestinians, and carried out airstrikes against various targets in Jenin, the IDF said in a statement.

“This operation doesn’t stand on its own. This day doesn’t stand on its own,” the chief of the military’s Central Command, Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox, told reporters at the Salem checkpoint, some 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from Jenin.

Israel launched the operation to crack down on what it says is a hotbed of terror in the city. A number of attacks on Israelis in recent years have been carried out by Palestinians from the area, and observers say the Palestinian Authority has little control on the ground.

Over 1,000 IDF troops were involved in the campaign, which appeared to be the largest in the West Bank in some 20 years, with tensions already sky-high. Officials quoted in Hebrew-language media predicted the campaign would continue into Monday night, but likely be over within a day.

The IDF said the operation began shortly after 1 a.m. on Monday, with a series of airstrikes against multiple targets in the city, including a joint war room shared by various armed groups in the city.

Palestinian health officials said eight people were killed and at least 80 others were wounded, including 17 listed in serious condition, during the strikes and in clashes with Israeli forces, which continued into the night.

Chief of the IDF Central Command Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox speaks to reporters at the Salem checkpoint in the northern West Bank, July 3, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

“There is a series of operations here, just like we were here a week ago and two weeks ago, we will finish this operation, and we will come back in a few days or a week, and we will not allow this city of refuge for terror,” Fox said.

“This isn’t a limited engagement. We want to improve the security and increase our freedom of action,” he added.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu huddled with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and the heads of the IDF and Shin Bet Monday evening to discuss the operation. He hailed the campaign as a game-changer against terror.

Smoke rises during an Israeli military raid in Jenin on July 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

“In recent months, Jenin has become a haven for terrorism — we are putting an end to it,” Netanyahu said, noting that Israeli forces killed several gunmen, arrested others, and found and destroyed a host of weapon and bomb-making facilities — some of them “on an industrial scale.”

Netanyahu pointed out that the forces are operating in a densely populated area and “they are doing it with minimal harm to civilians.”

The premier claimed that the operation would change “the equation against terrorism” and compared it to the recent operation against Islamic Jihad in Gaza and the 2021 Guardian of the Walls operation against Gaza-based fighters.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2L) attends a security briefing during an IDF operation in Jenin on July 3, 2023. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Leaders of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups urged Palestinians to join the fighting against the IDF, with some Gaza-based fighters threatening to get involved.

Preparing for possible rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, authorities canceled a large concert in the southern city of Sderot, but issued no other precautions. Over the past year, the Islamic Jihad terror group has launched rockets at Israel from Gaza in response to members being killed or arrested in the West Bank.

The IDF said that since the early hours of Monday, troops questioned over 100 Palestinian suspects. Several of them were released, while others have been taken in for additional questioning.

More than 300 explosive devices were seized and demolished by troops during the operation. And the military carried out some 20 drone strikes across the city and Jenin refugee camp, the IDF said.

The IDF also published footage showing members of the elite Maglan unit clashing with Palestinian gunmen in Jenin early on Monday morning.

During the afternoon hours, troops clashed with Palestinian gunmen in and around a mosque in the Jenin refugee camp.

The IDF said it carried out a drone strike against gunmen outside the mosque, and later managed to break inside, where the armed Palestinians were holed up.

Entrances to underground storage sites for alleged weapons and explosives in a mosque in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, July 3, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

On the ground floor, troops found two underground storage sites containing explosives, weapons, and other military equipment, the army said.

Troops also uncovered at least three explosives laboratories with hundreds of devices already prepared for use in Jenin, the IDF said. The soldiers confiscated the weapons and destroyed the explosives.

Explosives located by Israeli forces in the West Bank city of Jenin, July 3, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF said troops also demolished several war rooms used by Palestinian gunmen in Jenin to observe Israeli forces in the West Bank city.

“Demolishing the combat management rooms deals a blow to the terror infrastructure that operates in the area,” the IDF said in a statement.

The military published images showing the rooms, which are equipped with monitors displaying dozens of surveillance cameras.

Palestinian terror groups’ command and control centers, discovered by the IDF in Jenin, on July 3, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

The IDF said Border Police troops shot a wanted Palestinian man during the operation. The suspect was taken by military forces to a hospital in Israel for treatment, before he was to be questioned.

One Israeli soldier was lightly hurt during the operation, after being hit by shrapnel from a grenade hurled by other Israeli forces. The IDF said First Sgt. “Ayin,” from the elite Duvdevan unit — who can only be identified by his rank and initial of his first name in Hebrew — “insisted” on returning to his unit after being treated.

Several of the slain Palestinians were identified by media reports as members of armed groups in the city, although there was no immediate official statement issued by Islamic Jihad or other local terror organizations.

Internally, the military has referred to the operation by name, calling it “Bayit Vegan,” literally Home and Garden, a reference to Jenin’s biblical name, a term used by Netanyahu as well. But the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit has insisted that the operation has no official name.

The military appeared to be downplaying the scale of the campaign by not giving it a name. IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari called it a “brigade-level raid.”

For weeks, there was 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.

Palestinian gunmen take up position during a confrontation with Israeli army in the West Bank city of Jenin on July 3, 2023. (Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)

Last month, an Israeli military drone struck a car carrying three Palestinian gunmen who had just opened fire at a checkpoint in the northern West Bank near Jenin, marking the first targeted killings in the West Bank since 2006.

That incident came days after attack helicopters were used in a military raid in Jenin, in which seven Palestinians were killed, including two teens, and eight soldiers were injured by a large roadside bomb and in clashes with Palestinian gunmen.

Last week, Palestinians in the Jenin area attempted to launch two homemade rockets at Israeli towns, footage showed. The rockets landed in Palestinian-controlled territory in the northern West Bank and did not reach Israel. A makeshift rocket was located during Monday’s operation in Jenin.

The northern West Bank, and especially the city of Jenin and its environs, has long been considered by the IDF as a hotbed of terrorism, highlighted by a string of attacks in early 2022, of which many were carried out by residents of the area.

According to the IDF, since last year, some 50 shooting attacks were carried out by residents of the area, and 19 wanted Palestinians escaped to Jenin to seek refuge there from Israeli forces.

Israeli troops operate in the West Bank city of Jenin, July 3, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

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.

Most Popular
read more: