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Nine Palestinians killed in Israeli raid in Jenin ahead of Blinken visit

Only four days before the arrival to Israel of Secretary of State Antony Blinken, tensions in the West Bank between Israeli security agencies and Palestinian groups increases.
Relatives mourn during the funeral of Palestinians killed during an Israeli raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank on January 26, 2023. - Israeli forces killed nine Palestinians, including an elderly woman, said officials in the occupied territory, while the Israeli military said troops traded fire with Islamist militants during a "counterterrorism operation". (Photo by ZAIN JAAFAR/AFP via Getty Images)

Nine Palestinians were killed during an Israeli military raid in the West Bank on Thursday, Palestinian health officials said, in what marked the deadliest escalation in years. The flareup comes on the eve of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's visit to the Holy Land on Monday. 

Palestinian officials said the raid killed seven militants and two civilians including an elderly women. 

The Palestinian Authority's WAFA news agency reported that 20 Palestinians were injured — four of them seriously. The PA said the raid targeted "local youths" and further accused the Israeli military of disconnecting the camp's power supply, denying access to paramedics and shooting at an ambulance.

The Palestinian health ministry identified three of those killed as Magda Obaid (60), Saeb Izreiqi (24) and Izzidin Salahat (26). 

Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) reported that eight Palestinian assailants were killed during an exchange of fire.

The raid, the Israeli authorities said, was part of a weeks-long IDF operation targeting Palestinians suspected of supporting "terror activities." Israeli authorities said that violence erupted Thursday morning when Israeli troops entered the city to arrest Islamic Jihad operatives suspected of planning and carrying out multiple attacks against Israel.

Israeli troops surrounded a house where intelligence suggested the suspected operatives were hiding, the Israeli authorities said. Upon arriving, Palestinian gunmen opened fire at the Israeli troops both from inside and outside the house, the IDF added. 

The exceptionally violent incident in Jenin has raised fears in Jerusalem that violence will break out in other West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has convened a special meeting with security heads to assess the situation this evening.

On Thursday, the Palestinian Authority announced it was halting security cooperation with Israel. 

Palestinian militant group Hamas vowed that Israel "will pay a price," as clashes erupted elsewhere in the West Bank between Palestinian youth and Israeli forces. 

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh released a statement this afternoon calling on the United Nations to “intervene urgently to provide protection for Palestinian people and stop the bloodshed of children, youth and women.” The Palestinian Foreign Ministry called on the international community and the Biden administration to take action against what it called "the Israeli killing machine."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas decreed three days of mourning. Senior Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri pledged that the “response of the resistance will not be delayed.”

The United Nations special envoy to the region Tor Wennesland said in a statement that he was "deeply alarmed and saddened by the continuing cycle of violence." He added that it was "crucial to reduce immediately and prevent more loss of life, and remain engaged with Israeli and Palestinian authorities to de-escalate tensions, restore calm and avoid further conflict."

The incident in Jenin took place just days before US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to travel this weekend to Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian territories. Jerusalem has been careful not to convene planning committees for West Bank settlements before Blinken's arrival so as not to create a crisis with the Biden administration.

During his visit to Jerusalem and Ramallah, Blinken will meet separately with both Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. In a phone briefing with reporters on Thursday, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf said the US is aware of civilian casualties resulting from the Jenin raid and has urged de-escalation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces.  

Asked about the Palestinian decision to cease security cooperation with Israel, Leaf said it was important that the parties “retain and if anything deepen” coordination. 

Adam Lucente and Elizabeth Hagedorn contributed to this report.

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