Middle East

Israeli military says all forces have left Jenin after achieving goals in refugee camp incursion

By Hadas Gold, Mostafa Salem, Ibrahim Dahman and Abeer Salman, CNN

CNN  —  The Israeli military’s operation in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin has ended, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said Wednesday, as the United Nations expressed deep concern over the violence in the city’s sprawling refugee camp.

“All the forces have left Jenin. We have finished the operation – its goals have been achieved,” IDF Chief Spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told Israeli military radio station Galei Tzahal.

At least 12 people, from ages 16 to 23, were killed and scores more injured after Israeli forces launched large-scale operations in the camp this week, Palestinian officials said. Israel said it was targeting Palestinian terrorists and one of its soldiers was killed in the operation.

Early Wednesday, the IDF said it also conducted strikes in the Gaza Strip, in response to five rockets launched toward Israeli territory, all of which were intercepted.

UNICEF, the UN children’s agency, reported that at least three children lost their lives in Jenin, while many others sustained injuries amid ongoing clashes.

In an interview on CNN when the death toll stood at 11, Hagari claimed no “non combatants” had been killed during the incursion.

“We are now in the end of achieving our goals, inside Jenin, fighting the terror and dismantling the terror in the Jenin Camp,” Hagari said. “We are achieving our goals and when we achieve our goals the forces will get out from the camp.”

Video obtained by CNN showed Israeli military vehicles starting to withdraw from the occupied West Bank city, as other vehicles are seen entering.

Even after the initial IDF announcement of their forces starting to withdraw, military operations appeared to continue late Tuesday with the IDF saying that an armed terrorist cell was targeted by an IDF aircraft in a cemetery on the outskirts of Jenin city.

The operation was carried out because the gunmen “posed a threat to the security forces exiting from the Jenin Camp,” the IDF added.

In Gaza early Wednesday, the IDF said it carried out a targeted airstrike on an “underground weapon production site” used by the Palestinian militant group Hamas. A site involved in the production of raw materials for Hamas’ rockets was also targeted, it said.

“This attack constitutes damage to the ability of the terrorist organization Hamas to strengthen and arm itself,” the IDF said on Twitter.

Gaza, an isolated enclave on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, is located southwest of the landlocked West Bank.

Earlier, Hamas said a car ramming and stabbing attack in Tel Aviv Tuesday was carried out by one of their fighters, and was a response to Israel’s operation in Jenin.

Eight people were injured in the attack near a Tel Aviv shopping center, Israeli officials say, which saw the attacker emerge from the crashed vehicle and continue to stab civilians.

The UN’s human rights chief Volker Türk called for the “killing, maiming and the destruction of property” to end.

“The recent operation in the Occupied West Bank and car ramming attack in Tel Aviv worryingly underscore an all too familiar pattern of events: that violence only begets more violence,” a statement read.

“The scale of the Israeli Security Forces’ ongoing operation in Jenin, including the use of repeated airstrikes, along with the destruction of property, raises a host of serious issues with respect to international human rights norms and standards, including protecting and respecting the right to life,” he added.

Türk said “some of the methods and weapons used during the operations by ISF [Israeli Security Forces] in the Jenin Refugee Camp and surrounding areas are more generally associated with the conduct of hostilities in armed conflict, rather than law enforcement.”

He called on Israeli forces to “abide by international human rights standards,” which “do not change simply because the goal of the operation is stated as ‘counter-terrorism.’”

Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad said in a statement early Wednesday that the “Palestinian people scored a great victory by defeating the aggression against Jenin and its camp.”

“The Jenin Battalion and its brave fighters bravely and heroically led this great victory,” the group’s secretary general Ziyad al-Nakhala said. “I call for national solidarity in order to strengthen the steadfastness of the Jenin camp so that it remains an inspiring address for revolution, defiance, jihad and resistance.”

Rising casualties

A police spokesperson described the car ramming on Pinchas Rosen Street in northern Tel Aviv as a “terror attack,” and told CNN the driver was killed by an armed civilian.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attack, saying “whoever thinks that such an attack will deter us from continuing our fight against terrorism is mistaken. He is simply unfamiliar with the spirit of the State of Israel, our government, our citizens and our soldiers.”

In Jenin, a total of 117 people were injured in the refugee camp due to the ongoing IDF operation, said the Palestinian Red Crescent on Tuesday. Among these injuries, there are 12 reported as serious and 33 as moderate. The IDF had acknowledged civilians among those injured.

Israeli troops have started withdrawing but the situation remains volatile.

Thousands are still out of their homes, after evacuating overnight to avoid harm. The damage in the camp is extensive, with some roads torn up as Israeli bulldozers disarmed IEDs, and extensive damage to homes and cars as a result of the clashes.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the Palestinian Authority Deputy Prime Minister, called for United States to help de-escalate the situation, in an interview with CNN’s Eleni Giokos on Tuesday.

“Americans should interfere because Israel should be stopped by the Americans, immediately. Otherwise, the situation is very risky, very dangerous for them and for us,” in an interview with CNN anchor Eleni Giokos on Tuesday.

Rudeineh said that “the Israeli army was attacking Palestinian citizens” and added, “What happened yesterday was completely dangerous.”

CNN’s Muhammad Darwish, Irene Nasser, Sarah Dean, Hamdi Alkhshali and Ingrid Formanek contributed to this report.

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