Israeli forces launched what a military source said is its largest military operation in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin in more than 20 years, killing at least eight people and injuring about 80 others, according to Palestinian officials.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said in a statement it launched the “extensive counterterrorism effort in the area of the city of Jenin and the Jenin Camp,” striking “terrorist infrastructure.”
The IDF carried out at least 10 airstrikes and hundreds of soldiers targeted what it said was militant “command and control” center as well as weapons and explosive manufacturing sites.
Videos obtained by CNN from Jenin show Israeli bulldozers tearing up streets to disarm IEDs, as well as Israeli tanks outside the city limits. Residents told CNN they heard explosions and heavy gunfire in the area, while video from the scene showed wounded Palestinians being evacuated by ambulance to Jenin Government Hospital.
Five of those killed were teenagers, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said.
A ninth Palestinian was shot and killed by Israeli forces near Ramallah in the West Bank in a separate incident, according to the health authorities.
Israeli army radio described at least eight of those killed in Jenin as “militants” but no militant group has yet to claim those killed as members.
The raid sparked immediate condemnation. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called the large-scale Israeli military operation “a new war crime.”
“Security and stability will not be achieved in the region unless our Palestinian people feel it. What the Israeli occupation government is doing in the city of Jenin and its camp is a new war crime against our defenseless people,” he said, according to presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh.
Egypt also condemned the Israeli incursion, calling it an act of “aggression.”
The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland said he had been in direct contact with all relevant parties to urgently de-escalate the situation in Jenin and ensure humanitarian access.
“The operation comes after months of growing tension that once again reminds us of the extremely volatile & unpredictable situation across the occupied West Bank. All must ensure the civilian population is protected,” Wennesland said.
However, Israeli forces prevented Red Crescent crews from entering Jenin, according to al-Saadi. Israeli forces obstructed the ambulances’ access to the injured and raised arms against them, he said in a statement.
“The ambulance crews managed to evacuate a number of the injured they were able to access. The paramedic crews were brought from other governorates to provide help,” al-Saadi said.
CNN has reached out to the IDF for comment.
The director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in the West Bank, Adam Bouloukos, said the Israeli operation and the response of “armed actors” in Jenin has “tragic consequences” for Palestinian refugees.
“Humanitarian access is most urgent now,” Bouloukos said on Twitter.
The White House is also “closely” monitoring the situation in Israel, a National Security Council spokesperson told CNN.
The spokesperson added broadly, “We support Israel’s security and right to defend its people against Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other terrorist groups.”
As of 6:00 p.m. local time, the operations were ongoing with the Israeli military saying it was continuing to engage in firefights with armed militants, including at a mosque.
The raid comes less than two weeks after an Israeli military raid on Jenin erupted into a massive firefight, leaving at least five Palestinians dead and dozens wounded. Eight Israeli troops were injured in that operation and successfully evacuated, according to the IDF.
Militants set off powerful IEDs against Israeli troops, while the Israeli military used an Apache helicopter to provide gun cover for soldiers, for the first time in decades.
The IDF said it struck a joint operational command center for the Jenin Camp and operatives of the Jenin Brigade, a Palestinian militant group associated with Islamic Jihad.
“The operational command center also served as an advanced observation and reconnaissance center, a place where armed terrorists would gather before and after terrorist activities,” the IDF said, adding that the camp was a “site for weapons and explosives” and “hub for coordination and communication among the terrorists.”
“Additionally, the command center provided shelter for wanted individuals involved in carrying out terror attacks in recent months in the area,” it said.
The IDF later said its forces targeted a weapons production and explosive device storage facility and confiscated an “improvised rocket launcher” and additional weapons during the operations, which were carried out in coordination with the Israel Securities Authority (ISA).
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was briefed on the “progress of the operation” in Jenin, a statement from his office said Monday, adding he had “discussed future operational plans.”
Later on Monday, an IDF aircraft struck near a mosque “to remove a threat,” according to the IDF, without elaborating on the character of the “threat.”
Clashes have been ongoing since shortly after midnight, with the latest death toll in Jenin rising to eight, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry figures released before the airstrike near the mosque.
In response to Monday’s attacks, Hamas called on militants in the West Bank and Jerusalem to strike Israel “by all available means,” a statement by its military wing said.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad said it will “perform its duty” in stopping the “massacre” in Jenin.
Monday afternoon, Israeli police reported a Palestinian teenager stabbed an Israeli man in Bnei Brak, outside of Tel Aviv. Israeli police said the teen claimed “he stabbed the person in response to the events in Jenin.” The Israeli man was injured and moved to hospital.
IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Hecht told reporters Monday that several armed “terrorist suspects” have been killed during the ongoing operation.
“We’re not trying to hold the ground. We’re acting against specific targets,” Hecht said.
The first round of airstrikes were launched at 1:14 a.m. local time and were followed by IDF ground forces, Hecht said.
One of the goals of the operation was to break the “safe haven” mentality within the Jenin camp, according to Hecht, who described it as a “hornet’s nest.”
Some 50 shooting attacks against Israelis have emanated from Jenin, he said.
Hecht also said the Palestinian Authority and Jordan had been informed about the incursion in advance, but didn’t elaborate further.
Though the IDF spokesman declined to comment on the number of forces involved, he said it is around a brigade, which is approximately equivalent to 500 soldiers.
A spokesman said later an Israeli soldier was “slightly injured” by shrapnel from a grenade used during the incursion, and that they had been taken to a hospital for medical treatment.
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said Monday the Israeli military is striking the “terrorism hub” that operates in the Jenin camp.
“I want to emphasize we don’t have a fight with Palestinians. Our fight is with the proxies of Iran in our region, which is mainly Hamas and Islamic Jihad,” Cohen said, accusing Tehran of trying to escalate tensions in the region.
The Jenin Brigade claimed it had severely damaged at least one Israeli military vehicle with improvised explosive devices and its militants continue to clash with Israeli forces “to prevent its advance inside the camp.”
Palestinian Islamic Jihad said it will face its enemy “with all possible retaliation options,” in response to the Israeli operations in Jenin.
“The aggression on Jenin will not achieve its targets, Jenin will not surrender. We will face the enemy with all possible retaliation options in response to the enemy aggression on Jenin,” the militant group posted to its official Telegram channel.
In a separate incident, a 21-year-old man, identified as Muhammed Hassanein, was shot and killed by Israeli forces at the northern entrance of Al-Bireh near Ramallah in the West Bank, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health on Monday. The IDF has not yet commented on the incident.