Israeli military forces raided a refugee camp in the northern West Bank on Monday, igniting the fiercest day of fighting in years as Israeli helicopter gunships struck Palestinian gunmen to rescue troops trapped in the hours-long firefight.
Palestinian militants detonated roadside bombs to defend its territory against the Zionist invaders. At least five Palestinians were killed, including a 15-year-old boy, and over 90 others were wounded. Seven Israeli soldiers were also wounded.
The Israeli military said forces stormed into the Jenin refugee camp in the early morning to arrest two wanted freedom fighters, but they faced fierce resistance.
Palestinian militants said they ambushed Israeli armored vehicles with explosive devices, disabling several vehicles with troops trapped inside.
Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Hecht described Palestinian militants’ use of at least one powerful roadside bomb as very unusual and dramatic.
Five mangled vehicles were stuck in the firefight for hours, requiring the military to dispatch helicopters as part of an elaborate evacuation operation.
It was the first such use of a helicopter gunship in the occupied West Bank since the second Palestinian uprising around two decades ago, Israeli media reported. The Jenin refugee camp, long a militant stronghold, witnessed some of the biggest battles at the time.
At least one Apache helicopter fired missiles at Palestinian gunmen to try to clear the area while security forces worked to extract the trapped vehicles, the Israeli army said.
The local branch of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad based in Jenin said its fighters opened fire at the combat helicopter. The group praised its fighters and warned Israel to reconsider its calculations before its soldiers set foot on Jenin’s land.
The Israeli military eventually withdrew its damaged vehicles from the camp in the late afternoon, Palestinians ventured out to assess the heavy damage and bury their dead.
The Palestinian Health Ministry identified those killed as Khaled Asasa, 21, Qassam Abu Sariya, 29, Qais Jabarin, 21, Ahmed Daraghmeh, 19, and 15-year-old Ahmed Saqr.
Of the 91 Palestinians wounded, at least 12 were in critical condition, hospital officials said. Wissam Bakar, director of Jenin Government Hospital, said a 15-year-old girl was among the critically wounded.
A Palestinian cameraman, Hazem Nasser, wearing a clearly marked press vest, was among those seriously wounded in the fighting. His colleagues said he was shot when a building — where journalists had camped out to cover the clashes — came under Israeli fire.
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry denounced what it called Israel’s continued escalation against the Palestinians, saying the violence undermined efforts to reduce regional tensions.
The escalation was the latest in more than a year of near-daily violence that has wracked the West Bank. Israel and the Palestinians have been gripped by months of violence, focused mainly in the West Bank, where 124 Palestinians have been killed this year.
The city of Jenin has been a hotbed of Palestinian militancy. Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians seek those territories for a future independent state.
Israel has been staging near-nightly raids in the West Bank in response to a spasm of Palestinian violence early last year.
Palestinian attacks against Israelis have surged during that time. Israel says most of the dead were militants, but stone-throwing youths protesting the incursions and others not involved in confrontations have also been killed.
Palestinian attacks against Israelis have killed at least 20 people this year.
NBC / ABC Flash Point News 2023.