Israeli forces killed at least nine Palestinians, including a 60-year-old woman, during a raid early Thursday in the Israeli-occupied West Bank City of Jenin, according to the Palestinian health ministry.
A gun battle between the Israeli troops and armed Palestinians broke out amid the operation, the Israeli army and a local armed Palestinian group said. The Israeli military said it had responded with live rounds after coming under fire during the raid, which it said was aimed at apprehending members of the Islamic Jihad group who were involved in executing and planning multiple attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians.
The deaths brought to 29 the number of Palestinians killed in the West Bank so far this year, including at least five youths under 18. That is a particularly high toll for less than one month, even compared to 2022 when at least 166 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the deadliest year since the United Nations began tracking in 2005.
At least 20 people were injured by gunfire or tear gas inhalation, with four in critical condition, the Palestinian health ministry said. The ministry and the Palestinian Red Crescent accused Israeli troops of storming the Jenin government hospital and firing tear gas inside the pediatric ward, but Israel denied those accusations.
“The situation in Jenin camp is very critical,” said Dr. Mai al-Kaila, the Palestinian health minister. “We have been informed by the Red Crescent that there are many injuries that are difficult to rescue and evacuate so far. The Israeli occupation impeded the entry of ambulances into the Jenin camp to rescue the wounded.”
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The Israeli military confirmed that it had killed three people, including two “armed suspects” who were fleeing and added that it was looking into reports of additional casualties. Islamic Jihad is designated a terrorist organization by the United States and Israel.
The violence comes as Israel’s new government, the most right-wing administration ever, has signaled an even tougher line against the Palestinians.
The far-right minister of national security in the new government, Itamar Ben-Gvir, who oversees the police, has called for a relaxation of open fire regulations for soldiers and police confronting Palestinians, including those seen holding stones or firebombs. He has also called for immunity from criminal investigation or prosecution for any members of the security forces acting in combat situations.
But the military leaders responsible for open-fire policies in their ranks and investigations of soldiers’ actions are opposed to such changes and so far none have been implemented.
Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups have said that a loosening of the rules of engagement as well as any guarantees of immunity could lead to even more killings of Palestinians. They say that soldiers in the West Bank enjoy near total impunity already and are rarely held accountable for Palestinian deaths.
Officials from the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the West Bank, condemned the raid and killings, and Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said that Israeli forces continued to kill Palestinians, motivated by a sense of impunity. He called on the United Nations and international human rights groups to urgently intervene to protect Palestinians and prevent further bloodshed.
The Palestinian foreign ministry condemned “the bloody and barbaric incursion committed by the occupation forces”’ in Jenin. “It expresses the arrogance of the occupation and its insistence on escalating the situation in the arena of conflict,” the ministry added.
Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls Gaza, threatened retaliation for Thursday’s raid.
“The occupation will pay the price for the massacre it carried out in Jenin,” the deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau, Saleh al-Arouri, said in a statement.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced a three-day mourning period across the West Bank.
In 2022, the majority of Palestinians killed were civilians, according to the United Nations and Palestinian human rights groups. The Israeli military, however, has claimed that the vast majority were involved in some form of violence that threatened Israeli lives.
The death toll rose as Israel stepped up military raids in the West Bank in the spring of 2022 after Palestinian assailants carried out a series of attacks, killing 19 Israelis and foreigners, most of them civilians, in the worst spate of killings in years.