Conflicts & War

Palestinians flee refugee camp as Israeli military operation continues

Jerusalem, Jul 3 (EFE).- Thousands of Palestinian residents of a refugee camp in Jenin, a city in the northern part of the occupied West Bank, were evacuated Monday amid concerns about a potential overnight escalation of an ongoing large-scale Israeli military operation.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said its teams evacuated around 3,000 people, although a spokesman for that organization said they were having “difficulty moving about the camp because many roads have been cut off amid so much destruction.”

Palestinian media said the refugee camp’s residents fled their homes, claiming the Israeli army issued an ultimatum that gave them two hours to leave – a window that allegedly expired on midnight Monday, when the offensive was expected to intensify.

Images uploaded to social media show Palestinians leaving the camp in large numbers, some with their hands raised, and Israeli troops inspecting houses to make sure no one was still inside.

An Israeli military spokesman, however, said no ultimatum had been issued and that people were leaving the camp voluntarily.

More than 20,000 Palestinians live inside the refugee camp, over 1,000 of whom are militiamen who for the past year and a half have formed part of a group known as the Jenin Brigade.

Israel on Monday targeted the camp with an aerial and ground assault that is its largest in the West Bank since the Second Intifada, a five-year uprising that ended in 2005.

More than 1,000 soldiers have been deployed in the operation, which thus far has left nine Palestinians dead and more than 100 injured, over 20 of them seriously, according to the Palestinian National Authority’s Health Ministry.

The operation in Jenin could end in “one or two days” once the military objectives have been achieved, Israeli Defense Forces spokesman Daniel Hagari said after it was launched early Monday.

In recent hours, videos on social media have shown a caravan of armored vehicles approaching Jenin in an apparent move to bolster the operation, which thus far has resulted in the arrest of dozens of terrorism suspects.

For the first time in decades, Israel has made repeated use of air strikes in the occupied West Bank to attack different targets, particularly Jenin Brigade command centers, weapons-production facilities and warehouses for storing explosive devices.

Hagari, however, said the IDF’s drone-fired attacks were precision strikes that used missiles with minimum payloads.

The raid comes after weeks of speculation over whether Israel would launch a large-scale military operation in the West Bank amid a surge in violence.

Jenin has been targeted in multiple Israeli raids in the last year and a half.

On June 19, Israeli forces launched a 9-hour raid on the camp that left seven Palestinians dead in which the IDF used combat helicopters for the first time since 2002.

Three days later, Israeli forces launched the first drone air strike on the West Bank since 2006, targeting three militants in a car.

This year has been the deadliest in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict since the Second Intifada. EFE


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