Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited soldiers wounded in the IDF’s Wednesday morning raid in Jenin as they recovered at Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center, taking the opportunity to hail their conduct during one of the most intense West Bank firefights in years between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen.
Five Palestinians were killed during the heavy clash in the northern West Bank, during which an Israeli helicopter gunship carried out rare strikes, the first in the West Bank in some two decades, in order for eight wounded soldiers to be evacuated from the battle zone after a vehicle was hit by an explosive device.
In a statement from Rambam, Netanyahu said Israel has in recent months “eliminated and arrested a record number of terrorists, and this was the case in the Jenin operation as well.”
Netanyahu told the media the wounded soldiers are “incredibly impressive” and “come from all walks of Israeli society.”
“We are striking terrorism with strength and determination,” he said.
One of the wounded soldiers recounted the firefight in a statement released by the Border Police. “We came under heavy fire as explosives were hurled at us from multiple directions. Together with all of the forces on the ground, we managed to arrest several wanted suspects and strike a large number of terrorists,” said the combat medic, whose name was not released for publication.
“As soon as the force was hit by fire, I and another medic began to treat the fighters, and in a short time paramedics and other forces arrived. We are determined to recover and return to our friends and to operational activity soon,” he added.
A Rambam spokesperson said that in addition to the eight soldiers, Daggo, a dog from the Oketz reconnaissance unit, was also wounded. The canine was evacuated to the hospital along with the wounded soldiers via helicopter and doctors noticed something was wrong with the dog shortly upon their arrival. Daggo was being examined by veterinarians to determine the extent of his injuries, which were believed to be internal.
The injuries suffered by the eight soldiers ranged from moderate to minor. Five of the wounded were being treated at Rambam while the other two were at Sheba hospital outside Tel Aviv.
The wounded soldiers were also visited by Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai who hailed their conduct in Jenin. “You acted professionally, under great risk to yourselves during a complex operation to thwart terrorism. I am proud of you and wish you a speedy recovery,” he said.
“We are in a challenging security reality… but all of the security agencies are sending a clear message, we will reach every terrorist wherever they are,” he said, before thanking the medical teams for treating the wounded.
In a brief joint statement earlier Monday, the Israel Defense Forces and Border Police said forces entered the northern West Bank city in the early morning hours to detain two wanted Palestinians.
“During the activity, a massive exchange of fire took place between the forces and armed gunmen in the area. Large numbers of explosive devices were hurled at the forces. The forces responded with live fire,” the statement said, adding that several suspects were hit.
The Palestinian Authority health ministry reported that five people were killed and at least 91 people were wounded amid clashes with Israeli troops in the city.
The ministry identified those killed as Khaled Asasa, 21, Qassam Abu Sariya, 29, Qais Jabareen, 21, Ahmed Daraghmeh, 19, and 15-year-old Ahmed Saqr, and said at least 23 others were seriously wounded in the shootout, including a young girl. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad later claimed Abu Sariya, Jabareen, and Daraghmeh as members of local wings of the terror group in Jenin and the nearby town of Tubas.
IDF publishes footage of an Apache helicopter carrying out strikes in Jenin earlier today, in order to aid the evacuation of seven troops wounded by a roadside bomb. pic.twitter.com/CGUTDEaOAD
— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) June 19, 2023
A local wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group claimed its members had detonated explosive devices near IDF vehicles and then targeted them with gunfire.
The IDF said that “as the security forces exited the city, a military vehicle was hit by an explosive device, damaging the vehicle.”
An Apache helicopter then launched missiles at an area where gunmen were identified, the IDF said, in order to allow the wounded troops to be evacuated from the area to hospitals in Israel.
Since the beginning of the year, Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank have killed 20 people and left several more seriously hurt.
According to a tally by The Times of Israel, 122 West Bank Palestinians have been killed during that span, most of them during clashes with security forces, but some were uninvolved civilians and others were killed under unclear circumstances.