At least five Palestinians have been killed in one of the largest military operations launched on the West Bank by Israel in recent years.
According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, dozens of people were injured in an attack that began with multiple drone strikes on the Jenin refugee camp in the early hours of Monday. The death toll was expected to rise, officials said.
As well as the aerial assault, a convoy of dozens of Israeli armoured vehicles “surrounded the refugee camp from all sides and launched a ground military operation”, said Al Jazeera.
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An official at the Jenin Governmental Hospital told Middle East Eye that the attack was one of the worst in years, adding: “We have not received this number of serious injuries since 2002.”
A local resident told the news site that the shelled buildings belonged to civilians, and included the Freedom Theatre, a popular cultural centre in the northern West Bank city.
An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, told media that the operation was “part of a series of actions” that the Israeli military “will continue to carry out”.
“This is not an operation against the Palestinian Authority but against the terror groups in Jenin,” he said.
The attacks follow weeks of “speculation about a major Israeli military operation in the West Bank”, said The Times of Israel, after “a string of shooting attacks and intense resistance to IDF raids in Palestinian cities”.
More than 180 Palestinians and 24 Israelis have been killed this year in the escalating violence, “inflaming fears that the region is moving closer towards a new chapter of full-scale conflict”, said The Guardian.
“As long as there is Israeli military rule, the ongoing expansion of settlements in the West Bank with the clear aim of annexing it, and the lack of any prospect of fresh elections or unity within the Palestinian political system, there will not be any calm or stability in the West Bank or in Gaza,” warned Yossi Mekelberg, professor of international relations at Chatham House, in an article for Arab News.
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