Will deadly rise in West Bank violence prompt full-scale Palestinian uprising?

Militants threaten revenge after highest Israeli raid death toll since 2005

Mourners in the West Bank
Mourners carry the body of Palestinian youth Yousef Muhaisen, killed by Israeli fire
(Image credit: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images)

Tensions in the West Bank intensified after Israeli forces killed nine Palestinians, including an elderly woman, during a raid on the Jenin refugee camp.

The Israeli military said its troops went in to arrest Islamic Jihad “terror operatives” who were planning attacks, but the Palestinian presidency accused Israel of a “massacre” and suspended its security co-ordination with Jerusalem.

Overnight “the Islamic Jihad in Gaza fired several rockets toward Israel”, said Axios. “Most were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system and the Israeli air force retaliated with an air strike in Gaza”.

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The “most deadly Israeli raid into Jenin refugee camp in nearly two decades” has prompted fears of a “wider flare-up”, due in part to the Palestinian Authority (PA) “losing control” and new groups assuming power in Jenin, said BBC Middle East correspondent Tom Bateman from Jerusalem.

What did the papers say?

The increase in nightly raids by Israeli forces in the West Bank has led to “scores” of deaths over the past year, said Al Jazeera.

According to the news site, more than 170 Palestinians, including at least 30 children, were killed across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem in 2022. The dead include Palestinian fighters and civilians.

The death toll from yesterday’s raid is the highest in a single operation ever recorded by the UN since the international body’s records began in 2005.

This “surging violence reflects a combustible mix of on-the-ground and generational changes”, wrote Miriam Berger in The Washington Post. However, who is to blame for the bloodshed is a question that is as hotly contested as ever in the region.

Palestinians point the finger at Israel’s “excessive use of force and open-fire rules during near-daily military operations, as well as rising assaults by settlers in the West Bank”, said Berger, but Israel insisted its forces are “responding to fatal attacks on Israelis by Palestinian militants”.

Young Palestinian fighters, “disillusioned with old-style Palestinian movements like Fatah”, have “formed new groups like the ‘Den of Lions’ in Nablus”, reported Reuters.

Hamas, which is still rebuilding Gaza following a 2021 conflict, “sees the West Bank as a battleground with the new Israel government”, the news agency added.

The proposals by the “new far-right government” for “far-reaching changes to the administration of the occupied West Bank” prompted warnings even before Benjamin Netanyahu’s new coalition was officially sworn in, reported the Financial Times earlier this month.

Plans that include “handing sweeping administrative responsibilities and control over Border Police forces in the territory to far-right politicians” could “shatter” the Israeli military’s “entire strategy” for maintaining stability in the West Bank, Giora Eiland, a retired Israeli general, told the paper.

What next?

US secretary of state Antony Blinken is expected to travel to the region this weekend to visit Israel, the West Bank and Egypt and call for calm.

All eyes are on the Palestinians to see what their next move is. “Israeli optimists might say that Palestinians see how hopeless it is to fight with the [the Israeli military]”, wrote Yonah Jeremy Bob in The Jerusalem Post, and “those who know the nine killed Palestinians will want to avoid a seemingly inevitable similar fate”.

However, he added, a “more simplistic and less rational calculus could lead relatives and friends of the nine Palestinians to turn to terrorism” as Hamas and Islamic Jihad are “both threatening revenge”.

Therefore, Thursday’s operation could bring the PA, Hamas and Islamic Jihad “all months or years closer to the next conflict ��� when their anger boils over and overpowers their fear”, he added.

The next conflict could be closer than that because the deputy head of the political bureau of Hamas, Saleh al-Arouri, has said that “the occupation will pay a price for the massacre it committed”, said Haaretz.

UN and Arab mediators said that negotiations were being held with Israel and Palestinian factions across the West Bank and Gaza Strip in an effort to calm the situation, reported The Guardian. The United Arab Emirates, China and France have asked the UN Security Council to meet behind closed doors today.

Meanwhile, a military official told Ynet, Israel is “prepared for every scenario” because the terror cell targeted in Jenin “planned to carry out major attacks”.

Blinken says he wants to “preserve” the two-state solution but the “reality on the ground, along with the stated policy position of the new Israeli coalition, suggests he may as well be speaking another language”, said the BBC’s Bateman.

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Chas Newkey-Burden has been part of The Week Digital team for more than a decade and a journalist for 25 years, starting out on the irreverent football weekly 90 Minutes, before moving to lifestyle magazines Loaded and Attitude. He was a columnist for The Big Issue and landed a world exclusive with David Beckham that became the weekly magazine’s bestselling issue. He now writes regularly for The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent, Metro, FourFourTwo and the i new site. He is also the author of a number of non-fiction books.