Jenin: UN agencies voice alarm as major Israeli operation continues


UN agencies have expressed alarm at the scale of Israel’s military operation in Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, as it continued for a second day.

Eleven Palestinians have been killed since hundreds of Israeli troops backed by drones entered the camp on Monday.

The agencies say infrastructure is being damaged and medics have been stopped from reaching all the injured.

Palestinian militant groups meanwhile said a car-ramming and stabbing attack in Israel was a response to the raid.

Israeli authorities said seven people were injured on a busy shopping street in Tel Aviv and that the attacker was a Palestinian man from the West Bank.

Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said: “Whoever thinks that such an attack will deter us from continuing our fight against terrorism is mistaken.”

Palestinian leaders have accused Israel of mounting an “invasion” in Jenin.

Dark grey smoke continued to rise from different locations in the refugee camp on Tuesday, while drones flew overheard almost constantly.

At a news conference in Geneva, a spokeswoman for the UN’s humanitarian office said it was “alarmed at the scale of air and ground operations that are taking place in Jenin and continuing today in the West Bank, and especially [the] air strikes hitting a densely populated refugee camp”.

She said the Palestinian health ministry had confirmed that three children – two 17-year-old boys and a 16-year-old boy – were among those killed, and warned that damage to infrastructure meant most of the camp now had no drinking water or electricity.

The World Health Organization said Palestinian ambulance crews had been prevented from entering parts of the camp, including to reach people who were critically injured. The health ministry has said more than 100 Palestinians have been injured, 20 of them critically.

A Palestinian Red Crescent official said about 3,000 Palestinians, including many sick and elderly, were allowed overnight to flee the drone strikes and gun battles between Israeli troops and armed Palestinians.

A man in a wheelchair who was escorted out of the camp with his family in the morning told the BBC that they had been held in a room by Israeli troops.

“We were encircled by a military barricade. Israeli soldiers came. Now we just went out. There were no people left in the camp. We were the only ones.”

He added: “It’s been a very difficult situation. The drone was shooting at us. Now we’ve just left. And we’re all tired. We’ve had no food… No drink.”

Outside a hospital in the nearby city centre, Palestinians protesters threw stones at an Israeli military vehicle, prompting it to fire tear gas in response.

Medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières complained that paramedics had been forced to proceed on foot because Israeli military bulldozers had destroyed many roads, stripping them of tarmac.

Israel’s military said it did not limit access for medics except where their lives would be put at risk.

It also said militants in the camp had concealed explosive devices on the roads and that it had been “acting on precise intelligence to neutralise the explosives… using engineering tools”.

Military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said on Tuesday morning that all of the Palestinians who had been killed were involved in the fighting.

He also said forces were continuing to seize weapons and explosives in the camp and had 10 more targets left after facing “low resistance” overnight.

During a visit to the Salem crossing near Jenin on Tuesday afternoon, Mr Netanyahu said Israeli forces were “completing the mission and I can say that our extensive operation in Jenin is not a one-time action”.

“We will continue as long as necessary to uproot terrorism. We will not allow Jenin to go back to being a city of refuge for terrorism.”

Jenin has become a stronghold of a new generation of Palestinian militants who have become deeply frustrated by the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority’s aging leadership and the restrictions of the Israeli occupation.

The city has seen repeated Israeli military raids in the past year as local Palestinians have carried out deadly attacks on Israelis. Other Palestinian attackers have hidden there.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh rejected statements from foreign governments saying that Israel had the right to defend itself.

“Israel is internationally recognised as the occupying power over our land and people,” he tweeted. “[It] should be condemned for its use of force to destroy the camp’s infrastructure, facilities, and homes, and to kill, arrest, and displace innocent people.”

“It is the Palestinian people that have the right to self-defence. There is no such right for an occupying power,” he