Conflicts & War

Shadow of death hovers over violence-hit Jenin camp

By Sara Gomez Armas

Jenin, West Bank, Jun 1 (EFE).- While Israel considers it a hotbed for terror activities, Palestinian residents of the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank spend their nights speculating over who is next on the Israeli kill list.

“Neither I nor anyone in the camp is afraid of living here, or of what might happen to us. But every time the Israeli army enters, we inevitabely wonder who will be the next to die,” Salim Awad tells Efe.

In the past two months, the countryside of Jenin and nearby villages have been constantly raided by Israeli forces after the latest wave of violence by Palestinians in the Israeli territory that has left 18 people killed.

Some 40 Palestinians have been killed in these “counterterrorism operations” across the West Bank, particularly in Jenin. Not all of them were armed militants, but civilians such as Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

The death of Abu Akleh, who was renowned in the Arab World for her reporting from the Middle East for Al Jazeera news channel, was condemned from around globally and drew attention to what is happening in Jenin.

But Jenin inhabitants do not believe that the situation is going to change.

“This is an occupation and under an occupation, you cannot make plans or expect changes,” says Awad, who had to give up his job as a waiter outside the camp for fear of being arrested at one of the multiplying Israeli military posts set up in the area.

The Israeli army indicates that 50% of the terrorist threats Israel is facing come from there and that almost 500 of those detained in the past two months are from Jenin.

“They say we are terrorists, but it is not true. We only fight for our right to live on our land,” says Awad, who has held refugee status since he was born in that camp set up in 1953.

Awad’s family settled there after being evicted from a small Palestinian town near the city of Haifa that remained within the borders of the new state of Israel, established in 1948.

The Jenin camp, home to some 22,000 Palestinians, suffers from the highest rates of unemployment and poverty in the entire West Bank region, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA). The situation there has further deteriorated since Israel suspended many of its residents’ work permits.

For decades, economic instability and insecurity have defined life in Jenin, a stronghold of the Palestinian armed resistance since the Palestine British Mandate (1922-1948), and where the Second Intifada’s deadliest battle took place in April 2002, when 23 Israeli soldiers and 50 Palestinians died.

Since then, the armed brigades of the Islamist movements of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad have been present in the Jenin countryside.

“They fight in the street with ordinary pistols, nothing to do with the weapons of the Israeli Army. They are heroes, they fight for the Palestinian people, for our freedom,” says Bassam al-Sadi, an Islamic Jihad leader in the northern West Bank and one of the movement’s founders.

The 61-year-old points out that the Palestinians are ready for a new intifada if the Israeli army puts more pressure on the West Bank, but believes that “the occupation will maintain these raids because they know that a military offensive in Jenin would lead to an open war also with Gaza or Lebanon.”

“Jenin is the key to war or peace in the region. Jenin and its martyrs are a symbol of the struggle for a free Palestine and an example for new generations,” says al-Sadi.EFE


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