Israel Conducts Largest Air Offensive in West Bank in Almost Two Decades

Israel has launched significant air strikes on the West Bank, accompanied by ground troops, targeting armed militants in the Jenin refugee camp.

The operation, which began early Monday, involved drone-fired missiles and focused on militant targets within the camp, as reported by the New York Times.

At least eight Palestinians were killed, according to the Palestinian health ministry. The Israeli military reported striking a joint operations center used by the Jenin Brigade, a weapons production facility, and explosive device storage.

The Israeli government has promised a tougher response to violence and an expansion of Jewish settlements.

The use of drone strikes in the West Bank is a departure from Israel’s previous aerial attacks on Gaza, but it represents the most intense air power deployed against West Bank militants since the early 2000s. While the recent violence in the West Bank has not reached the levels of the previous Palestinian uprising, there are concerns that the tit-for-tat attacks could escalate further. Residents of the Jenin camp expressed fear and described the Israeli military’s actions as vindictive, causing terror among the population.

Tensions in the area have been increasing, with Palestinian militias carrying out attacks against Israelis and Jewish settlers. The killing of four Israeli civilians near a Jewish settlement last month heightened pressure on the Israeli government to take stronger military action against armed Palestinians in the northern West Bank. Jenin has a long history of armed resistance against Israel and has been associated with defiance and lawlessness due to its location and relative distance from Palestinian centers of power.

Israeli military officials estimate that there are hundreds of armed Palestinians in the Jenin area, with the city serving as a stronghold for the Islamic Jihad group and Hamas. Over the past six months, more than 50 shooting attacks against Israeli targets have been launched from the Jenin area, according to Israeli military reports.

The Israeli military aims to break the safe-haven mentality within the Jenin refugee camp during its operation, as at least 19 individuals suspected of attacking Israelis had found shelter there in recent months, according to Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hecht, an Israeli military spokesman.

The airstrikes were intended to minimize ground friction and risks to Israeli troops, while ground forces seized weapons. Around 1,000 Israeli ground troops were estimated to have entered Jenin. The Palestinian presidency denounced the assault as a war crime, and the Palestinian health ministry reported at least eight Palestinians killed and around 50 wounded.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also faced separate pressures as protests against his plan to weaken the judiciary erupted at Israel’s main international airport. The tensions in the Jenin area escalated due to a rocket launch and a deadly Israeli military operation that occurred earlier in June.

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By Melinda Davies
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