TEL AVIV — Deadly clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in the West Bank town of Jenin on Monday reflected accurately regional tensions, with Hamas growing in popularity, nonexistent control by Palestinian security forces and heightened pressure by hard-liners in Israel’s government to wipe out Palestinian militant attacks.
What began as yet another routine operation by uniformed troops and undercover forces to arrest Palestinians wanted for suspected involvement in militant activity went awry and turned into a 12-hour battle. Five Palestinians were killed and dozens were wounded, as were seven Israeli soldiers. For the first time in over two decades, an Israeli Apache helicopter was deployed over the West Bank, firing missiles at armed Palestinians to help extract troops whose armored vehicle was hit by explosives in the first such successful Palestinian ambush against Israeli forces in many years.
"Deluxe operations are over," a senior Israeli military source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity after Monday's events, referring to generally precise and limited Israeli operations against Palestinians in recent years. "Violence is increasing and spilling over from Nablus and Jenin to other places. There may be no escaping a larger-scale military operation in northern Samaria [West Bank region]."
The troops went in to capture two Hamas militants in the Jenin refugee camp, which has long been a hotbed of anti-Israel activity and a flashpoint in clashes between the sides. But this time Hamas was prepared, planting a powerful bomb that incapacitated an armored vehicle carrying undercover forces. Additional explosives were detonated against the Israelis and large groups of militants directed heavy gunfire at the troops. The Apache fired missiles to deter the Palestinians from approaching the armored vehicle, which was eventually retrieved. The Israelis also took with them the two Palestinians they had come to arrest.