An endless battlefield… facts about Jenin camp

The military operation carried out by the Israeli army in Jenin is the most fatal in the West Bank since 2005, according to United Nations statistics, and the Jenin camp is usually the arena that witnesses the most violent confrontations between Israeli security forces and militants of Palestinian factions.

14 Palestinians were killed in the recent Israeli operation in Jenin. Since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas, which controls Gaza, on October 7, tension has escalated in the West Bank, specifically in the Jenin camp.

Smoke rising from Jenin camp following violent clashes with Palestinian militants

The name of Jenin camp is linked to an Israeli operation that destroyed large parts of it, in which 52 people were killed, most of them civilians, in 2002, as part of Operation “Defensive Shield” in which the Israeli army invaded the cities of the West Bank, after an attack on a hotel in the city of Netanya.

Prisoners of Gilboa prison escape

The escape of 6 Palestinians from the Israeli Gilboa prison, on September 6, 2021, constituted a turning point in the Jenin camp, especially since some of the escapees from the prison were known former militants who were active in the camp and the city of Jenin, such as Zakaria Al-Zubaidi and Mahmoud Al-Arda.

A guard point in Gilboa prison

The militants in the camp where the fleeing people took refuge were on alert, and the various Palestinian factions formed a joint operations room in preparation for any confrontation with the Israeli army.

The Israeli army launched extensive sweeping operations to track down the fugitives, working to prevent their infiltration into Jenin, which would have complicated the process of re-arresting them.

The Israeli authorities launched a massive security campaign searching for prisoners who escaped from Gilboa Prison and who were later arrested

Israel was able to arrest the fugitives, but it launched an assassination campaign targeting Palestinian militants in the camp and the city, and killed 7 Palestinian residents of the camp, according to the governmental Palestinian National Information Center.

On May 11, 2022, the Palestinian-American journalist, Sherine Abu Aqla, was killed in the city of Jenin, while she was covering an Israeli military operation in the camp, and the Palestinian authorities accused the Israeli army of killing her.

The US State Department confirmed at the time that it “wants Investigation “Comprehensive and transparent” regarding the killing of Abu Aqla.

The Israeli army later admitted that there was a “strong possibility” that one of its soldiers had shot and killed her, even though she was wearing a bulletproof vest with the words “Press” written in English on it, and a helmet on her head.

Abu Aqla was killed while covering an Israeli army operation in the Jenin camp

“July operation”

On the morning of Monday, July 3rd, Jenin camp was on the verge of a new Israeli operation.

About 3,000 Palestinian residents of Jenin camp left their homes, as a military operation began, considered the largest in about 20 years in the West Bank, in an area inhabited by about 18,000 people.

In the early hours of that morning, Israeli forces launched a large-scale operation in the Jenin camp, in which hundreds of soldiers participated, and included air strikes.

The Israeli army announced a military operation in the Jenin camp to pursue militants

The operation included armored vehicles and military bulldozers, during which the Israeli army carried out strikes with drones. Elite units from various army, security, and border guard forces also participated in the operation.

The army said that its forces entered the camp “to destroy underground passages used to store explosives.”

The army added at the time that its soldiers “found two operations rooms belonging to terrorist organizations in the area, and dismantled them.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the operation at the time as “entering the nest of terrorism” in Jenin, noting that his forces worked to “destroy command centers and confiscate a large quantity of weapons.”

Palestinian militants in Jenin camp

But the Palestinian Ministry of Health said that the victims of the attack were “mostly boys and children,” and that the majority of the dead were “not more than 17 years old, and the rest were between 18 and 23 years old.”

This military operation was carried out two weeks after another major operation targeting the Jenin camp, and included helicopter bombing for the first time in years.

The Israeli army is constantly stationed on the outskirts of the Jenin camp, where it carries out incursions from time to time, interspersed with clashes with Palestinian youth.

Invasion of the camp…the “defensive shield”

On April 3, 2002, the residents of Jenin camp were facing a comprehensive Israeli invasion that continued until April 18. The 15 days that passed in the camp were among the most difficult and dangerous, due to the fierce fighting that took place in the alleys and neighborhoods.

The scene was mysterious and unprecedented, as the Israeli forces found themselves faced with a scenario of fighting between houses, to the point that the Israeli army was forced to open corridors that penetrated the walls to move from one house to another in the camp.

The Palestinian authorities and international organizations accused the Israeli army of committing “acts of random killing.”

The invasion of Jenin was part of a comprehensive Israeli military operation called “Defensive Shield,” which targeted the main West Bank cities that were under the control of the Palestinian Authority.

Operation “Defensive Shield” came in response to a bombing that targeted a hotel in the Israeli city of Netanya, where Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack that led to the death of at least 17 Israelis and the wounding of about 80 people.

The Israeli Prime Minister at the time, Ariel Sharon, gave orders to the army to begin the military operation, “to eliminate the armed Palestinian factions” that were waging battles with the Israeli forces during the days of what is known as the “Al-Aqsa Intifada” that broke out in September 2000.

The spark of the Palestinian “intifada” was launched after Sharon, then leader of the opposition Israeli Likud Party, stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque on September 28, 2000.

According to the Oslo Accords (2), the territories of the West Bank are classified into 3 areas: “A” under full Palestinian control, “B” subject to Israeli security, civil, and Palestinian administrative control, and “C” subject to Israeli civil, administrative, and security control. The latter constitutes about 60 percent of the area of ​​the West Bank.

The confrontations between the two sides intensified in the West Bank, and members of the Palestinian security services became involved in the fighting, and announced their readiness to confront Operation “Protective Shield,” where they barricaded themselves in the alleys of cities and camps, especially in the Jenin camp and the old town of Nablus.

The outcome of the operation was dozens of deaths, while the Israeli army held the Palestinian militants “responsible for endangering the lives of civilians.”

United Nations report

The United Nations issued a report on Operation Defensive Shield, which lasted about 10 days, regarding the pattern of attacks launched against Israel by armed Palestinian groups operating from the West Bank, and the military actions carried out by Israel in that operation.

The UN report documented the killing of 52 Palestinians during the invasion of Jenin camp, nearly half of whom were civilians, while local Palestinian sources indicated that the number of victims was “higher than that.” The report also documented the killing of 23 Israeli soldiers.

and say the report Prepared by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, at the time, “The fighting in Jenin camp passed through two phases. The first lasted about 6 days, from the third to the ninth of April, while the second phase extended to the 10th and 11th of the same month.”

The United Nations report indicated that “10 percent of the buildings in the Jenin camp were completely destroyed, as they were leveled to the ground.”

According to the report, the diameter of the area targeted by the Israeli attack was about 200 meters, its surface area was 30,000 square metres, and it included about 100 buildings that were leveled.

The Israeli operation resulted in about 800 families, with an estimated number of more than 4,000 people, losing their homes.

The report quoted the Palestinian Authority as saying that Israel “committed unlawful killings, used civilians as human shields, used disproportionate force, carried out arbitrary arrests and torture, and prevented the sick and injured from obtaining treatment and medical assistance.”

Tanks, planes and bulldozers

The UN report documented the participation of 60 Israeli tanks in invading the camp, supported by helicopters from the air, and huge armored D9 bulldozers equipped to fight, remove obstacles, and expand corridors to enable the tanks to maneuver in combat operations inside the camp’s streets.

The fighting was fierce, and about 4,000 civilians from the camp were trapped and refused to leave.

The Israeli army said that it “dealt with more than a thousand explosive devices and hundreds of hand grenades, which were used by militants in the camp to repel the incursion.”

The turning point in the battle

The Israeli army faced fierce fighting in the camp, and the confrontation intensified between the fifth and ninth of April, causing loss of life between both parties.

On April 9, everything changed, as 13 Israeli soldiers were killed, and others were injured, in an ambush set up by Palestinian militants for the Israeli army inside the camp.

After that, the militants were able to kill another soldier in the camp, bringing the number of Israeli soldiers killed during the operation in Jenin to 23 soldiers, according to the report.

Civilian casualties

The UN report says that “children under the age of 15 and women and men over the age of 50 accounted for about 38 percent of all reported deaths,” and that the Israeli army “prevented ambulances and medical personnel from reaching the wounded.”

As for the report of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, it indicated the presence of “charred bodies and others rotting under the rubble,” and accused Israel of committing “field execution crimes” of civilians in the camp.

Facts about Jenin camp

In the 1948 war, the residents of Haifa, Carmel, and the Carmel Mountains left for the northern West Bank and settled in the Jenin area, which is the closest to the cities and villages from which they were displaced.

The current Jenin camp was established in 1953, because the original camp that was established in the area after the 1948 war was destroyed. Blizzard.

The camp is located within the borders of the Jenin municipality, and it is one of 19 Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank, which is supervised by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

UNRWA conducted reconstruction in the camp, developing an additional plot of land approximately 3 percent of the original area of ​​Jenin camp adjacent to it, reducing overcrowding. The camp’s area at construction was 372 dunums, which expanded to about 473 dunums.

The Israeli army intensified its incursions into the Jenin refugee camp

In addition to the camp being subjected to Israeli attacks, the Palestinian security forces carried out security operations there in search of wanted persons, which led to clashes between the two parties, including arrests.

UNRWA says that “violence has caused a significant impact on the emotional and psychosocial well-being of young children in particular.”

Jenin camp suffers from the highest rates of unemployment and poverty among refugee camps in the West Bank. The camp was affected by the separation wall erected by Israel, as it reduced the number of workers who could work in the Israeli market.

The difficult economic and social situation in the camp caused negative phenomena, including students dropping out of schools.

It also caused a state of anger over Israel’s security policies and its targeting of the camp with repeated military operations, in addition to the Palestinian Authority, which residents accuse of “neglecting” the conditions of the camp.

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