Jenin, West Bank | Fri July 7, 2023

At the gates of Jenin’s government hospital on Wednesday, dozens of armed Palestinian militants and their families gathered to collect their dead, just hours after hundreds of Israeli soldiers withdrew from the city’s sprawling refugee camp.

Israel’s greatest foray into the occupied West Bank in decades left much of Jenin without power or running water, filling the sweltering summer air with a horrible stink.

Young men’s bodies were removed one at a time, each one firmly strapped to a stretcher, some of them draped in the flags of the armed groups they belonged to. An AK-47 rifle was found attached to at least one victim.

The 19-year-old warrior who was the father of one of those killed took pride in his presence in the gathering outside the hospital as he was showered with hugs and sorrow.

Firas Abu Al-Wafa boasted loudly, “My son gave himself for this land.” “My son said he didn’t want to get married or start a family; all he wanted to do was devote his life to Palestine and the struggle against the occupation.”

Following funeral processions that quickly evolved into a large-scale act of resistance, celebratory gunfire erupted as thousands of people marched through the streets of Jenin and its camp on Wednesday. Palestinian armed factions declared victory simply for withstanding Israel’s firepower.

According to the Israeli military, all at least 12 Palestinians killed during the roughly 48-hour operation were fighters. The operation’s goal, according to the Israeli military, was to dispel the notion that Jenin serves as a “safe haven” for militants.

The Palestinian fighters, however, demonstrated their steadfastness and defiance by parading through the streets in broad daylight while wearing guns strapped to their chests. Eight of the dead, whose ages ranged from 16 to 21, according to the Jenin Brigade, a subgroup of the larger Islamic Jihad organization, were reported to have been from their ranks.

Meanwhile, according to UN specialists, five children were among the victims.

Widespread devastation

Jenin is often associated with pain and struggle among Palestinians. For Palestinians who had been driven from their homes following the formation of Israel in 1948, the refugee camp was originally constructed in 1953.

According to the UN, it is now a developed, highly inhabited neighborhood with some of the West Bank’s highest rates of unemployment and poverty. A region that is less than half a square kilometer (0.16 square miles) in size is home to around 17,000 Palestinians.

Families were caught in the crossfire of what Israel claims was a targeted attack on weapons stores, command centers, and what it refers to as terror tunnels due to the urban setting and congested maze of passageways.

One Jenin brigade headquarters was turned to a heap of debris by an airstrike, as witnessed by a CNN team on the ground. At another bomb site, the debris of what seemed to be an IED factory were left scattered among the rubble. The Israeli military claims that Jenin has been the source of at least 50 gunshot incidents against Israeli citizens.

However, according to UN experts, Israel’s soldiers have subjected Jenin to collective punishment that may be considered a war crime. Over 100 Palestinians, including civilians, suffered injuries.

According to UNRWA, hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed, forcing thousands of residents to escape. Additionally, schools that housed thousands of children were forced to close owing to a shortage of essential facilities.

Hanaa al-Shalaby, 40, claims that for hours, the fighting trapped down her and her three small daughters. Eventually, they were able to escape, but when they got home, they discovered significant damage.

“Our house and everything of our tangible possessions can be replaced, but how can I restore my small girls’ psyches? Al-Shalaby cried, “How will they ever feel safe again?”

The entire back wall of the girls’ room was destroyed in the explosion, leaving rubble on the tiny beds covered in pink linens. From her home, Al-Shalaby told CNN that her girls are scared, won’t eat, and haven’t slept much in days.

Al-Shalaby remarked, “My youngest, who is only 7 years old, says she wishes she had never been born. She claims that I should not have given birth to her in this abomination.

Frustration and resentment, but little left to fear

According to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), 2023 is on track to be the deadliest year in the occupied West Bank since the UN started keeping track of casualties in 2005 as a result of Israel’s West Bank operations substantially intensifying. For both Palestinians and Israelis living in the West Bank and Israel, last year was the deadliest year ever recorded.

According to the NRC, more than 150 Palestinians, including 28 children, have been killed in the West Bank this year, the majority of them were shot by Israeli troops using live ammunition. Israel claims that some of those murdered were actively battling Israeli troops, but human rights organizations claim that scores of civilians were also slain.

In recent months, settler violence against Palestinians has also increased as far-right ministers in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government demand for the expansion and conversion of illegal settler outposts in the West Bank into full settlements.

According to the NRC, the UN documented over 440 settler assaults on Palestinians in just the first half of this year, including physical assault and property damage.

As the slaughter increases, Jenin continues to be an isolated enclave that makes up only 20% of the West Bank that is completely under Palestinian Authority (PA) administration.

But according to an Israeli official from last year, the PA has for years adopted a laissez-faire attitude toward the camp, reducing its “security cooperation” with Israel in Jenin to practically nothing.

And there is a tangible animosity toward the PA, which is commonly regarded as corrupt and ineffective. Small groups of mourner’s chanted “get out” at PA officials present during the funerals for those slain in the incursion, and others tossed stones at the governor of Pennsylvania’s strongly protected office.

In Jenin, where there is little left for a population that is severely disenfranchised and has been neglected for a long time, the power vacuum has allowed a violent uprising to gradually build. The refugee camp’s walls are covered with “martyr” posters, the most of which show young men killed by various militant organizations throughout the ongoing cycles of violence.

Many people believe there will soon be another raid since Netanyahu has stated that he reserves the right to send Israeli military back into Jenin if his administration once more determines it to be a security danger.

However, Najwa Lahluh, a mother of five who came home to discover her house fully burned down, claims that there is nothing to fear for her family.

As she moved through the charred ruins of her living room, she said to CNN, “Our willpower is strong. “We are not afraid, even if the invaders come back again and time again and occupy us 24 hours a day. Why would you be scared? Our house has already vanished.

Israel claims to have greatly reduced the number of militant organizations stationed in the Jenin camp, but this action has only increased animosity and fueled the city’s resistance, which is already well-known among Palestinians for never backing down.

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