FRESH AIR

Israel will continue to act in self-defence against Palestinian terror

Jan 27, 2023 | Ran Porat

IDF forces in Jenin, 2002
IDF forces in Jenin, 2002

Background

The city of Jenin has long been considered ‘the capital’ of Palestinian terror, since the Second Intifada in the early 2000s. In recent months, the area of northern Samaria in the West Bank, from Jenin to Nablus has become almost lawless as the Palestinian Authority (PA), which is supposed to assert its authority there, is corrupt, and too weak to even enter the refugee camp.

Worse, violent incitement on social media and a flow of money, weapons and support from Hamas and the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) has resulted in hundreds of armed young Palestinian men roaming the streets of Jenin and ruling the population in a mafia-style reign of terror. Many new ‘recruits’ are teenagers, and some are members of the Fatah-controlled PA police and security forces, or sons of officers in these organisations. These militants operate independently, or under the umbrella of the PIJ and/or Fatah’s own Al-Aqsa brigades.

 

Operation ‘Breaking the Wave’

Following a spike in Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis last year, and as a self-defence strategy, the IDF decided to take the initiative and go into Jenin to stop the terrorists in their places of hiding. In an ongoing series of pinpoint operations, collectively labelled ‘Breaking the Wave’, Israeli forces entered Jenin to apprehend, arrest and in case of hostile fire, kill Palestinian terrorists. One of the achievements of this activity was the disbanding of the ‘Lions’ Den’ gang. At the same time, close to 150 Palestinians were killed in 2022 during clashes with the IDF, almost all of them were either wanted terrorists or engaging in firefights with the Israeli forces.

 

What happened on Thursday, Jan. 26

Following specific and urgent intel about a terror attack being imminent, IDF special forces arrived at Jenin in broad daylight (in army vehicles and a ‘dairy truck’) to make arrests and stop a cell of PIJ terrorists. During the fighting at least eight terrorists were killed or surrendered. Sirens were then activated in the camp, bringing more armed Palestinians to clash with Israeli soldiers.

A 61-year-old woman also lost her life, but it is yet to be determined if she was killed by Israeli or Palestinian fire. So far, 30 Palestinians have died during fighting with Israeli soldiers since the beginning of 2023.

The nine Palestinians killed were:

  1. Izz El-Din Salahat, 22 – a member of the Palestinian security forces and an operative of Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Brigades terror faction.
  2. Saeb Zreiki, 24
  3. Abdullah Al-Ghoul, 18 – PIJ militant.
  4. Wassim Abu Ja’as, 22
  5. Moatasem Abu Al-Hassan, 40 – a member of Hamas’ Izz al-Din al-Qassam brigades.
  6. Muhammed Ghanim, 28 – PIJ militant, Nur’s brother, son of a senior PA officer jailed in Israel for terror-related offences.
  7. Nur Ghanim, 25 – son of a senior PA officer jailed in Israel for terror-related offences.
  8. Muhammed Sabah, 30 – PIJ militant.
  9. Majeda Abdelfattah Abed (Umm Ziyad), 61 – confirmed civilian(woman).

It’s possible a tenth Palestinian may have also died in Jenin during the fighting.

 

Responses

The PA issued a furious statement after a special meeting was convened overnight at its headquarters in Ramallah, announcing all security coordination with Israel would cease immediately because of the ‘massacre’. Reports suggest that PA security forces also stopped protecting Joseph’s Tomb on the outskirts of Nablus.

Behind the scenes, Egyptian and US officials are trying to mediate between the sides to bring calm to the area. The Americans clarified that they think stopping security coordination with Israel is unhelpful and even called for that coordination to deepen. It should be noted that the PA has threatened several times over the past few years to halt security coordination, but only did so once for a few months during 2020, in response to US President Donald Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ peace plan, which included a suggestion Israel would annex parts of the West Bank. At the same time, analysts argue that since Ramallah is heavily reliant on Israeli intelligence and security assistance to keep the forces opposing the PA in check, the security cooperation would not be scrapped completely, and would either be reduced and/or stopped only for a short period.

While US and UN officials expressed concern over civilian casualties, several Arab countries condemned the killing of the Palestinians, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait and the UAE. The latter also used its role as the current representative of the Arab League on the UN Security Council (UNSC) to summon an urgent UNSC meeting to discuss the incident.

Several rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip towards Israel. Some were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome batteries. As a response, Israeli aeroplanes have attacked terror targets in the Strip.

 

The bottom line

Israel has been acting in self-defence since 2020, actively protecting its citizens from ongoing terror brewing from Jenin. The Palestinian casualties, including in the recent clash, are a result of the PA’s lack of governance in the area, the violent Palestinian incitement online and in the Palestinian media, and the funding and weapons supplied by Hamas and the Iran-supported PIJ to the West Bank.

The escalating lawlessness has turned Jenin into a terror and crime hub, which will force Israel to continue to act there unless the PA steps in to stop the militants, who are also threatening its own legitimacy as the Palestinian government.

Dr Ran Porat is an AIJAC Research Associate. He is also a Research Associate at the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation at Monash University and a Research Fellow at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Reichman University in Herzliya.

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