US backs Israeli right to self-defense after deadly IDF raid in Jenin
Ned Price also expresses concern over latest settler attack in Huwara, but does not urge restraint from Israel; Jordan, PA condemn operation that killed 6, including terror suspect
Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief
The Biden administration on Tuesday appeared to back Israel’s justification for the deadly counter-terror raid carried out by the IDF earlier hours earlier in the northern West Bank’s Jenin refugee camp, a striking departure from its reaction to previous deadly incursions.
Asked for comment on the raid during a press briefing, US State Department Spokesman Ned Price highlighted the IDF’s claim that its troops were pursuing the perpetrator of a terror shooting that took the lives of two Israeli brothers driving through the nearby Palestinian town of Huwara last week.
Referring to that attack as “horrific,” Price said, “Israel has the legitimate right to defend its people and its territory against all forms of aggression, including those from terrorist groups.”
Unlike his response to two other raids that the IDF recently carried out in Jenin and nearby Nablus, Price did not express concern regarding civilian Palestinian casualties or urge Israel to act with restraint.
Six Palestinians were killed in the Tuesday daytime raid, including 49-year-old Abdel Fattah Hussein Kharousha, the Hamas member behind last week’s Huwara terror shooting. The other five were members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups. Twelve other Palestinians were injured, three of whom were seriously, the Palestinian health ministry said. Israel Police said three officers of the elite Yamam counterterrorism unit were wounded during the raid, one of whom moderately and the other two lightly.
Responding to the raid, Price noted that “we have seen far too many vivid demonstrations of the terrorist threat that Israel faces in recent days.”
At the same time, the State Department spokesman clarified that the US “remain[s] deeply concerned by the sharp rise in violence in the West Bank and we continue to urge the parties to take immediate steps to prevent the further loss of life.”
He also expressed the administration’s “extreme concern” over the latest settler attack in Huwara that took place Monday night, just over a week after a deadly rampage in the Palestinian city.
Four Palestinians were hospitalized and several buildings and vehicles were vandalized in Monday’s attack, which settlers said followed the stoning of several Israeli cars by Palestinians in the area. No Israelis were arrested, and IDF soldiers were filmed dancing with Israelis at the scene in a transgression that the army said it would investigate. Price called on Israel to hold those responsible for the violence against Palestinians accountable, just as it does when the roles are switched.
While Tuesday’s raid did not spark the wave of international condemnations as similar operations have, Jordan’s Foreign Ministry did speak out.
Amman blasted the “ongoing Israeli incursions into occupied Palestinian cities and the continuous attacks on them.”
Surveillance camera footage shows the settlers attack on Palestinians in Huwara this evening.pic.twitter.com/tjZnh9p8ac
— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) March 6, 2023
The foreign ministry warned that such raids will lead to a “further deterioration and extend the cycle of violence” and called on Israel to cease its “unlawful and illegal campaign,” which undermines prospects for a two-state solution.
The Palestinian Authority condemned the raid and called for the US to pressure Israel to halt such operations.
“The Israeli government bears responsibility for this dangerous escalation, which threatens to blow up the situation and destroy all efforts aimed at restoring stability,” said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
The raid was likely to further harm chances that Israeli and Palestinian leaders will reconvene in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, next week for a follow-up meeting with US, Jordanian and Egyptian officials to the gathering held in Aqaba last month aimed at de-escalating tensions between the sides ahead of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.
PA Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh told The Times of Israel on Saturday that Ramallah would only attend if it receives assurances from the US, Egypt and Jordan that they will hold Israel accountable to the commitments it made in Aqaba to avoid “unilateral measures” that harm prospects for a two-state solution, including IDF raids in Area A of the West Bank, which is supposed to be under PA security control.