The Israeli army on Monday launched a major air strike on the West Bank city of Jenin, one of biggest military operation in the Palestinian territory in years, according to eyewitnesses and the Israeli military.
Dozens of armoured vehicles backed by drones and helicopters stormed the city and the refugee camp, said Palestinian eyewitnesses, adding that airstrikes were carried out during the exchange of fire between Palestinian militants and Israeli soldiers.
The Israeli military said it struck a “joint operations center” which served as a command center for fighters from the Jenin Brigades, an armed unit comprised of fighters from different militant groups. It declined to specify whether Monday’s strike also involved a drone.
At least five Palestinians were killed and 28 injured in the attack that began at about 1 a.m. on Monday, with the death toll likely to rise, the Palestinian health ministry said, The Guardian reported.
The incursion into Jenin is the first since the 2002 Battle of Jenin during the second intifada, when more than 50 Palestinians and 23 Israeli soldiers were killed in over a week of fighting, including 13 Israeli soldiers in a single incident.
Monday’s incident brought the death toll of Palestinians killed this year in the West Bank to 133, part of more than a year-long spike in violence that has resulted in some of the worst bloodshed in that area in nearly two decades, The Guardian reported.
Palestinian eyewitnesses said Israeli forces entered Jenin shortly after the airstrikes began, and armed clashes erupted between the soldiers and the Palestinian gunmen.
Israel Radio reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who held a meeting with Israeli security leaders on Sunday night, has been updated as the operation continued.
The Palestinian side on Sunday slammed Netanyahu for his policy of motivating Israeli settlers to commit more crimes against the Palestinians.
“Netanyahu’s boast of killing large numbers of Palestinians since the formation of his government motivates settlers to commit more of their crimes against our people,” said the Palestinian Foreign Ministry in a statement.