Israeli occupation forces and border police carried out a broad offensive on Monday morning against the occupied West Bank city of Jenin and its refugee camp. The Israeli troops killed at least five Palestinians and wounded, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, 91 others, 23 of whom are in a critical condition.
According to the Israeli military, the occupation forces detained two wanted Palestinians, but they were caught in an ambush on their way out of the refugee camp. Apparently eight soldiers and border police were wounded in roadside blasts and gunfire.
The evacuation of the wounded Israelis and damaged armoured vehicles took several hours. For the first time since the early 2000s, the Israeli occupation army used an Apache attack helicopter to fire missiles at Palestinians during such a military incursion.
The situation was clearly very difficult for the occupation forces. Israeli Army Radio described the eight-hour evacuation of the damaged vehicles as a “complex operation”. Israeli broadcaster Kan suggested that, “Eight hours for the evacuation of five armoured vehicles is almost similar to carrying out an operation outside the borders.”
Despite the high number of fatalities and casualties among the Palestinians, they were still able to fire at the Apache helicopter and, according to the Times of Israel, damage its tail rotor. The Palestinian fighters trapped between the anvil of the Israeli occupation and the hammer of the Palestinian Authority appeared in several videos demonstrating their pride in the outcome of their battle to defend the city and refugee camp of Jenin.
Israeli officials within the right-wing coalition government and others are angry. “The time has come to replace the pinpoint activity with a broad operation to eradicate the nests of terrorism [sic] in the northern West Bank and to restore deterrence and security in the region,” raged extreme far-right Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich. The killing of five Palestinians, including a child, and wounding 91 others was, in his twisted Zionist worldview, a “success”.
This is the minister, remember, who called for the government to wipe out the Palestinian village of Huwara in March. He wants the occupation forces in the West Bank to be reinforced: “The time has come to bring in air forces and armour and protect the lives of our warriors [sic]. I will demand an urgent meeting of the cabinet on the matter.”
Meanwhile, Likud MK Danny Danon said that, “The northern West Bank is turning into something similar to southern Lebanon in the breadth and quality of the attacks against settlers and security forces. This is the time to give the green light to IDF soldiers to act and to clean out the nests of terrorism [sic].”
It should be noted of course, that according to international law, the Israeli Jewish settlers are in the West Bank illegally, while what Danon and others call “terrorism” is entirely legitimate resistance to Israel’s brutal military occupation of Palestine.
The head of Yisrael Beiteinu party, Moldovan immigrant Avigdor Lieberman, insisted that the Israeli government “must launch an extensive, large-scale military operation [in the northern West Bank] in order to clean out the gangs [Palestinian resistance] and get the weapons.”
Haaretz has reported that there has been mounting pressure for the government to launch a large-scale offensive, but the Israeli military establishment has been resisting this. On Monday, the newspaper reported that the Shin Bet security agency had changed its position and also supports an offensive given the growing use of sophisticated roadside bombs by the Palestinian resistance groups.
Will such a reported broad military offensive end Palestinian resistance, though? I doubt it. The Israeli occupation army is already using its ultra-modern firepower in its fight against the Palestinian resistance, and has faced growing quantitative and qualitative resistance in the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip.
Pushing the Zionist narrative that legitimate resistance to Israel’s brutal military occupation is “terrorism” — what better way is there to justify sympathy and support from compliant pro-Israel Western governments? — Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said that there can be “no compromises in the fight against terrorism,” and that Israel “will continue to take an offensive and proactive approach… in Jenin, Nablus or Gaza.”
National Unity party head and former army chief of staff, predictably, confirmed his support for “Any responsible security action.” The ex-defence minister also criticised Israelis who “make the erroneous claim that our operations in Jenin, Nablus and everywhere in the West Bank are not extensive enough.” Gantz once boasted about returning Gaza to the Stone Age. He knows that the Israeli army can do nothing more than what is being done.
The Israeli occupation forces have bitter memories of the Palestinian resistance in Jenin. The late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon accused the city of being a “hotbed of terrorism” and ordered the destruction of its refugee camp as part of a military plan to reoccupy the major West Bank cities. The operation – dubbed “Defensive Shield” – started on 29 March 2002; it was the largest military operation since 1967.
Two regular infantry battalions of the Israeli army using 150 tanks, armoured personnel carriers, Apache helicopters and F-16 fighter jets, along with commandos and 12 D9 armoured bulldozers were involved in the battle of Jenin, which lasted more than two weeks. They killed 52 Palestinians, according to Human Rights Watch. Palestinian sources reported greater numbers. The Israeli occupation army lost 23 soldiers. By destroying the refugee camp, Israel declared an end to Palestinian resistance. Like a phoenix, though, it has risen from the ashes of Jenin.
Israel does not know how to deal with the Palestinian resistance. The Jerusalem Post’s senior military correspondent and intelligence analyst, Yonah Jeremy Bob, reported Israeli military strategists as saying: “We have no idea how to end the waves of terror,” and pointed out that the Israeli authorities fear that a bigger offensive might bring down the Palestinian Authority.
The unity of the Palestinian resistance in the occupied West Bank is crucial, as is the popular support it enjoys among the Palestinian people, despite the Israeli offensives and campaigns carried out by the PA against them. The Palestinians have international law and justice on their side. They have a legitimate right to return to and live in their land, and to resist those who occupy and colonise that land. Israel’s military offensives, with or without tanks and Apache helicopters, will never be successful in the long run. And Palestinians, through their determination and persistence, have shown that they are in this for the long run.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.