Deescalation in West Bank Amid New Potential Battlefront With Gaza Rocket Strikes

by Andrew Wright
Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Late Tuesday, security officials reported that the Israeli military was in the process of withdrawing from a stronghold of militants in the occupied West Bank. The operation, intense and sustained for two days, resulted in a death toll of 13 Palestinians, displacement of thousands, and considerable infrastructure damage. An Israeli soldier also lost his life.

Despite the overall withdrawal, intermittent skirmishes between Palestinian militants and Israeli troops persisted, particularly in parts of the Jenin refugee camp, thereby delaying the pullout. The military confirmed another soldier died during the continued conflict on Tuesday, however, more specific information was not provided.

Residents of the Jenin refugee camp reported that by midnight, the military had vacated the area, leading to people slowly venturing out on the streets again. Confirmation from the military was pending.

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Increasing the tension, the military announced the launching of five rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip by militants. All rockets were successfully intercepted, however, the incident heightens the possibility of conflict on a new front. Israel generally reacts to such rocket strikes with counter-airstrikes on targets within Gaza.

The report of rocket launches followed the incident of a Hamas militant driving his car into a crowded Tel Aviv bus stop and subsequently attacking people with a knife. Eight people were injured in the attack, including a pregnant woman who reportedly lost her child. An armed passerby killed the attacker. Hamas stated the attack was retaliation for the Israeli offensive.

Earlier on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted at the West Bank operation nearing its completion, one of the most intense in nearly twenty years. Nevertheless, he affirmed his commitment to conducting similar offensives in the future.

“At this juncture, we are concluding the mission. However, the extensive operation in Jenin is not a unique instance,” he stated.

While the withdrawal was underway, an airstrike was launched by the Israeli military targeting a militant group located in a cemetery, who were believed to be a threat to the retreating forces. Information regarding any casualties was not immediately available.

Confrontations near a Jenin hospital were reported by both Israeli and Palestinian officials on Tuesday evening. An on-site Big Big News correspondent heard explosions and gunfire. Palestinian hospital staff told the official Wafa news agency that Israeli gunfire had injured three civilians.

Early on Monday, Israel initiated an operation in the camp, a known hotspot of Palestinian militants, with the aim of destroying and seizing weapons. Palestinian health officials report 13 Palestinians killed and numerous others wounded.

The military deployed heavy-duty bulldozers, causing significant destruction to alleyways, buildings, and roads. Thousands of residents were forced to flee the camp, and services such as electricity and water were reportedly disrupted. The military justified the use of bulldozers by citing the presence of booby-trapped explosives on the roads.

Confiscated during the operation were thousands of weapons, bomb-making materials, and money stashes. These were discovered both in militant strongholds and civilian locales, including beneath a mosque, according to the military.

The extensive operation occurred amidst an increasing surge of violence over the past year, posing a considerable challenge for Netanyahu’s far-right, ultranationalist dominated government. This faction had advocated for a tougher stance against Palestinian militants, only to witness an escalation of conflict.

This year, over 140 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank, and Palestinian attacks on Israelis have resulted in at least 25 fatalities, including a shooting last month that claimed four settler lives.

Warnings regarding a deteriorating situation have been issued by humanitarian groups in response to the prolonged operation.

Doctors Without Borders accused the military of launching tear gas into a hospital, leading to an emergency room filled with smoke and requiring emergency patients to be treated in the main hall.

The UN’s human rights chief expressed concern about the operation’s scale and the implications for international human rights norms and standards, including the respect and protection of life.

Distinguishing features of Israeli military tactics during the second Palestinian uprising in the early 2000s were apparent in the raid, including airstrikes and the extensive deployment of ground troops. However, the current operation is marked by differences, including its limited scope.

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, a staunch settler leader, arrived quickly at the scene of Tuesday’s attack in Tel Aviv.

“Terror was expected to resurface,” stated Ben-Gvir. He lauded the citizen who killed the attacker and advocated for more armed citizens, even as he faced criticism from a visibly irate bystander.

The perpetrator was identified as a 20-year-old Palestinian man from Hebron, a southern West Bank city.

Hamas praised him as a “martyr fighter” and characterized the vehicular assault as “heroic and revenge for the military operation in Jenin.” The assault was also commended by Islamic Jihad, a militant group with significant presence in Jenin.

Jenin witnessed streets littered with rubble, periodic columns of black smoke over the camp, and heightened Israeli-Palestinian violence for years.

Nidal Al-Obeidi, Jenin’s Mayor, estimated that around 4,000 Palestinians, nearly a third of the camp’s population, had sought refuge with relatives or in shelters.

Kefah Ja’ayyasah, a resident of the camp, reported soldiers forcibly entering her home and confining the family.

Ja’ayyasah stated, “They relocated the young men in my family to the upper floor, leaving women and children trapped on the first floor.” She claimed that soldiers obstructed her from providing food to the children and barred an ambulance crew from entering the home when she cried out for help. Eventually, the family was granted passage to a hospital.

A general strike was observed across the West Bank by Palestinians in protest against the Israeli raid.

On Tuesday, the Palestinian Health Ministry reported that the two-day death toll among Palestinians had risen to 13. The Israeli military maintains that only militants were killed but has not released detailed information.

The Israeli incursion has been condemned by the self-governed Palestinian government in the West Bank, as well as three Arab nations that have normalized relations with Israel — Jordan, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates. Condemnations also came from Saudi Arabia and the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

In response to a series of fatal Palestinian attacks earlier in 2022, Israel has been conducting almost daily raids in the West Bank. Israel states these raids are intended to suppress Palestinian militants and are necessary due to the Palestinian Authority’s perceived weakness.

The Palestinians argue that such violence is the inevitable outcome of a 56-year occupation and the lack of any political dialogue with Israel. They also highlight the rising construction of West Bank settlements and violence by extremist settlers.

While Israel maintains that most of the killed have been militants, those uninvolved in confrontations and youth protestors throwing stones at the incursions have also been victims.

In the 1967 Mideast war, Israel seized the West Bank, east Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians aspire to establish their independent state in these territories.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Israeli-Palestinian conflict

What was the outcome of the recent Israeli military operation in the West Bank?

The operation resulted in the death of 13 Palestinians, the displacement of thousands of residents, and significant damage to infrastructure. The Israeli military has begun withdrawing its troops, though sporadic fighting continues in certain areas.

What sparked new tensions between Israel and Gaza?

Militants in the Gaza Strip launched five rockets into Israel. Although all rockets were intercepted, this has raised the risk of fighting on a second front.

How did Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu react to the West Bank operation?

Netanyahu signaled the nearing end of the operation but also vowed to conduct similar offensives in the future, stating that the extensive operation in Jenin is not a one-off event.

Has the recent military operation had any humanitarian implications?

Yes, the sustained operation has led to warnings from humanitarian groups about a deteriorating situation. Doctors Without Borders accused the army of firing tear gas into a hospital. The UN’s human rights chief has also expressed concern about the scale of the operation and its implications for international human rights norms and standards.

How have Palestinian authorities and international bodies reacted to Israel’s incursion?

The Palestinian self-rule government in the West Bank, three Arab countries with normalized ties with Israel (Jordan, Egypt, and the UAE), as well as Saudi Arabia and the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation have all condemned the Israeli incursion.

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JohnDoe1980 July 5, 2023 - 4:21 am

its just sad to see this. can’t they ever find a peaceful solution?

MiddleEastExpert July 5, 2023 - 12:55 pm

the humanitarian impact of this conflict is horrifying. innocent people suffer the most.

GlobalObserver July 5, 2023 - 4:40 pm

global community needs to step in. more dialogue less violence, pls.

InformedCitizen July 5, 2023 - 10:31 pm

Its clear the tensions are mounting. hope there’s no full-scale war soon.

PeaceSeeker July 5, 2023 - 11:38 pm

i am truly worried. more rockets, more fighting. Where’s the end?

InformedCitizen July 7, 2023 - 12:34 am

Its clear the tensions are mounting. hope there’s no full-scale war soon.

GlobalObserver July 7, 2023 - 3:30 am

global community needs to step in. more dialogue less violence, pls.

PeaceSeeker July 7, 2023 - 9:04 am

i am truly worried. more rockets, more fighting. Where’s the end?

MiddleEastExpert July 7, 2023 - 12:21 pm

the humanitarian impact of this conflict is horrifying. innocent people suffer the most.

JohnDoe1980 July 7, 2023 - 12:48 pm

its just sad to see this. can’t they ever find a peaceful solution?


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