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Israel escalates raids on Palestinian armed groups in West Bank

The security situation in the West Bank continues to worsen as Israel escalates its raids and assassinations inside cities and armed factions retaliate.
Palestinian youths stand behind a makeshift barricade of flaming tires separating them from Israeli security forces during clashes at the northern entrance of the city of Ramallah, West Bank, Oct. 3, 2022.

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Israel has escalated in recent days its raids in the West Bank amid growing resistance, specifically in Jenin and Nablus in the north, in tandem with its pressure on the Palestinian Authority (PA) to arrest wanted Palestinians.

In the early hours of Oct. 3, Israeli forces killed two Palestinians who allegedly attempted to run over soldiers during a raid in the Jalazone refugee camp near the city of Ramallah to arrest a wanted Palestinian. 

On Sept. 28, four Palestinians were killed and 44 others wounded during an Israeli raid in the Jenin refugee camp. The raid was met with fierce resistance from Palestinians inside the camp, who opened fire at the soldiers and set off several explosive devices, pointing to the armed factions’ growing capabilities. 

In a report published Sept. 29, Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper quoted the commander of the undercover unit that carried out the Sept. 28 raid as saying that the gunmen in the Jenin camp “prepared a death trap for us.” 

He continued, “We faced hundreds of gunmen and four explosive devices that exploded one after the other. It felt like an earthquake, and we turned into a target amid a cloud of smoke."

Several towns and cities in the West Bank observed a general strike to mourn the death of the four Palestinians killed in the Jenin raid. Clashes erupted between Palestinian mourners and Israeli forces in dozens of locations, while shootings at Israeli military checkpoints were also reported. 

Meanwhile, Israeli army chief Aviv Kochavi gave the green light for the army to use drones to carry out assassinations against Palestinians in the West Bank. 

Israel and the PA are growing concerned over the armed factions’ ability to recruit members of the Palestinian security services in the fighting against Israeli forces. 

Israel has reached out to the PA in an attempt to pressure it to stop the escalation in the West Bank.

In light of the Israeli actions in the West Bank, Islamic Jihad Secretary-General Ziad al-Nakhala threatened Sept. 28 to respond to the raids in Jenin. Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades issued similar threats. In response, Israel announced tighter security measures around settlements and on the roads in the West Bank for fear of more shooting attacks.

Maher al-Akhras, a leading figure in Islamic Jihad, told Al-Monitor, “The [Israeli] occupation does not want the resistance to continue in Jenin or to spread to other areas. It seeks to obliterate it [the resistance] once and for all, through its raids and attacks.” 

He said, “The public opinion in Jenin is in favor of the resistance, which was seen in the funeral of the martyrs,” in reference to the four Palestinians killed in the Sept. 28 raid. 

He noted that a significant development has occurred recently as members of the Fatah movement and of the PA security services have joined the resistance in Jenin, sparking the anger of the Israeli security and military establishments.

He added, “The attack on Jenin was designed to break this growing [support]. The resistance in Jenin and Nablus is strong, and the Israeli forces can no longer enter Jenin easily, but rather with difficulty and under a burst of gunfire.”

Commenting on the Israeli pressure on the PA to intervene in Jenin, Akhras said, “Israel wants the PA to end the resistance phenomenon, namely in Jenin. This is being discussed behind closed doors with some of the PA leaders, according to leaked documents. However, some of the PA and Fatah leaders have shown their support for the resistance by showing up at the funerals [of those killed during Israeli raids] and this is unprecedented.”

The Israeli army adopting the military option to confront the growing resistance in the West Bank will lead to a military escalation on the ground, in light of the increasing popular support for the resistance. While some Israeli analysts believe that the army will continue with its limited raids in the West Bank towns and refugee camps, a large operation or suicide attack by Palestinians could force the army to change its tactics and launch a large-scale operation in the northern West Bank. 

However, it seems the Israeli army is taking into account the fact that launching a large-scale military operation in the northern West Bank would trigger a military confrontation with the Gaza Strip. 

Israel is also aware that the repeated incursions by Israeli settlers into Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem during the Jewish holidays could implode the situation in Gaza.

During an event organized by Hamas in the Gaza Strip Oct. 1, the joint armed operations room of the military factions held a military parade.

Speaking at the event, Hamas official Rawhi Mushtaha warned that the Israeli practices at Al-Aqsa Mosque in particular, and in Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories in general, will lead to a large explosion of the situation at Al-Aqsa, and that this “explosion will change the shape of the region and the political map of the world, and forewarned is forearmed.” 

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