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Israel ends large-scale West Bank raid that left 13 dead

Mourners in Jenin carry the bodies of Palestinians killed in the Israeli incursion
— Jenin (Palestinian Territories) (AFP)

Israel's army on Wednesday declared the end of a large-scale military operation in the occupied West Bank that killed 12 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier over the previous two days.

The raid, involving hundreds of forces, drone strikes and armoured bulldozers, targeted the northern West Bank city of Jenin, a centre for multiple armed Palestinian groups.

Thousands of Palestinian mourners joined a funeral procession in Jenin for those killed, where militants fired gunshots into the air and the crowd chanted "With our souls and blood, we will sacrifice for you, martyr!"

Israel troops withdraw from Jenin

Amid the days of violence, a Palestinian attacker in Tel Aviv on Tuesday wounded seven Israelis in a car ramming and stabbing attack before an armed civilian shot him dead.

Overnight, Israel carried out air strikes on targets inside the blockaded Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire from the Palestinian coastal enclave, with no deaths reported.

As the army pulled out of Jenin, much of the city's crowded refugee camp was left charred and in rubble from the incursion which displaced at least 3,000 residents.

"All this bloodshed is considered a sacrifice for the homeland and for our cause. All this destruction can be fixed, God willing," a resident from Jenin camp told AFP as crowds of people holding Palestinian and militant flags marched through the city for the funerals.

Palestinian militants march during the funeral of Palestinians killed in clashes in the Israeli military operation in Jenin in the occupied West Bank

Late on Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to launch more operations if needed.

"It's not, by no means, the last action that we will take," he said during a visit to an air force base.

"From the ground, from the air, with superb intelligence, we will do what we can to fight the terrorists."

Some 300 suspects had been arrested and several explosives-manufacturing facilities had been destroyed during the operation, he added.

- 'Open war' -

An elderly woman stands amid the rubble of broken pavement in an alley in Jenin

The Jenin camp, a small urban area home to about 18,000 people, has long been a stronghold of militant groups including Islamic Jihad and Hamas.

Among the dead Palestinians was 16-year-old Abdulrahman Hassan Ahmed Hardan, who was shot in the head by Israeli forces while unarmed on Tuesday, according to the non-government group Defence for Children International.

The army has not yet commented on the group's claim.

Islamic Jihad praised its fighters Wednesday for what it labelled a "heroic" victory and vowed that, for Israel, "Jenin and its camp will remain a terror that haunts you".

Twelve Palestinians and one Israeli soldier were killed during the two-day operation

Jenin residents inspected the widespread destruction in the camp, where gaping holes were torn into buildings, cars were crushed and the ground was littered with bullet casings and broken glass.

Netanyahu has labelled Jenin's refugee camp a "terrorist nest", while the Palestinians labelled the escalation an act of "open war against the people of Jenin".

Israel has occupied the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day War and built many settlements, considered illegal under international law, in the area Palestinians regard as the core of the independent state they are seeking.

Excluding annexed east Jerusalem, the territory is home to about 490,000 Israelis living in settlements. The Palestinians want Israel to withdraw from all land seized in 1967 and to dismantle all Jewish settlements.

Israeli soldiers take aim during clashes in the centre of Hebron in the occupied West Bank

Netanyahu, however, has pledged to "strengthen settlements" and expressed no interest in reviving peace talks, which have been moribund since 2014.

The army, after a number of deadly attacks early last year inside Israel, started to launch almost daily raids in the West Bank.

The violence has further escalated since Netanyahu's government took over late last year, with clashes concentrated in the northern West Bank.

- 'Crimes against our people' -

During this week's raid, the army said it had uncovered militant hideouts, arms depots and bomb-making facilities.

The army said troops had also "confiscated" a large sum of "terrorist funds" during its operation.

An explosive charge left by Palestinians detonates near an Israeli armoured vehicle in Jenin

The Jenin clashes sparked renewed international concern, and the United Nations decried the violence in both Tel Aviv and Jenin.

Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, called the Tel Aviv attack "an initial response to crimes against our people in the Jenin camp".

Medical charity Doctors Without Borders condemned Israeli forces for firing tear gas inside Jenin's Khalil Suleiman hospital.

Palestinian health minister Mai al-Kaila accused the army of shooting at Palestinians in the Jenin public hospital courtyard, saying this had marked a moment when "Israel's aggression reached its climax".

The army said reports on the incident are "not currently known to security forces" and charged that "terrorist organisations have exploited civilian areas as a hideout".

At least 190 Palestinians, 26 Israelis, one Ukrainian and one Italian have been killed this year, according to an AFP tally compiled from official sources from both sides.

They include, on the Palestinian side, combatants and civilians, and on the Israeli side, mostly civilians and three members of the Arab minority.