(JNS) — The Israel Defense Forces began a major counterterror operation in Jenin in the early hours of Monday, including the entry into the Samaria city of significant ground forces.
“IDF forces are currently encircling the refugee camp from all directions as part of a ‘brigade-level’ operation,” said IDF Spokesperson R. Adm. Daniel Hagari. “We have no intention of occupying the refugee camp, and this is not an operation against the Palestinian Authority. We will create a sequence of operations in the northern part of the West Bank,” he added.
An Israeli soldier from the elite Duvdevan undercover unit was lightly wounded during the operation from grenade shrapnel, the IDF said. He was evacuated to a hospital for treatment and subsequently returned to the field.
According to the IDF, seven Palestinians had been killed as of Monday morning. The Palestinian Health Ministry raised its death toll to eight as of the early afternoon.
The IDF arrested more than 20 people during the operation.
The assault in Jenin began with an attack on a terrorist command center that was deliberately placed among UNRWA facilities such as a school and a food distribution center.
The site was the “unified headquarters of the factions in the Jenin refugee camp and the operatives of the ‘Jenin Battalion,’” the IDF said in a statement.
Initial Palestinian media reports said the site had been struck from the air by drones. The IDF statement did not confirm the reports, however, according to Israeli media some 15 airstrikes had been conducted by Israel as of Monday morning, with “limited” clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen.
According to Hagari, the strikes caught the terror factions by surprise, as they had not realized that the IDF knew the locations of their bases of operation.
The IDF released images of armored bulldozers tearing up a street in Jenin to eliminate IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) placed around the terror groups’ bases of operation.
Explosions were reported from the detonation of such IEDs as they were triggered by the bulldozers.
Once the asphalt was torn up, ground forces were able to move in.
A major counterterror operation was widely anticipated by Israelis and Palestinians alike as Palestinian terror mounted in northern Samaria. Since the beginning of 2023, 24 people have been killed in terror attacks.
Israel informed the Biden administration weeks in advance of plans to carry out an operation in Jenin.
Jenin has been the source of more than 50 shootings since the start of the year, and 59 terrorists from the city have carried out terror attacks since the beginning of 2022, killing three civilians and wounding 14 other civilians, the army said.
On June 19, an unusually large IED wounded seven soldiers on their way out of Jenin following an arrest operation, requiring the IDF to call in gunship support to extract them. On June 22, the IDF also carried out a targeted killing of three terrorists in Samaria via a drone strike, a tactic not seen in Judea and Samaria in 20 years. That incident was followed on June 26 by the first-ever launch of a homemade rocket from Jenin.
Harari did not say how long the current operation would last, only that there would be a series of operations carried out across northern Samaria according to two criteria: intelligence gathered on the terrorist bases, and operational timing.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a security assessment amid the Jenin operation, including options for next steps. The meeting at the premier’s Jerusalem office included National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi and Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, among other senior officials, and the virtual participation of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi.
“In the face of terrorism, we will take a proactive and decisive approach. Anyone who harms the citizens of Israel will pay a heavy price,” said Gallant in a statement earlier in the day.
“We are closely watching the actions of our enemies, and Israel’s defense establishment is prepared for every scenario,” the minister continued. “I commend the IDF and ISA (Shin Bet) for their determination and operations.”
Speaking at a press conference to the Foreign Press Association on Monday morning, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen emphasized that “we don’t have a fight with the Palestinians. Our fight is with the proxies of Iran in our region, which is mainly Hamas and Islamic Jihad.”
Cohen added that the Palestinian Authority was quietly supporting the IDF’s anti-terror efforts, because “they also don’t want … the terrorist movement [to] run their lives in Jenin and also in other places.”
Israeli political leaders from across the spectrum weighed in on the Jenin activities on Monday morning.
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said, “We have begun to change direction in our fight against terror and to work with G_d’s help to restore Israeli deterrence and security.”
National Unity chairman MK Benny Gantz also voiced support for the operation, stating: “I support the security forces who are determinedly and professionally operating at the moment in Jenin against the terror which has reared its head. We are all one front against terror. Any resolute and responsible action by the government will receive full support.”
The Palestinian terror factions issued a joint statement saying that “the continuation of the aggression against Jenin will determine the nature of the response by the resistance.”
Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s spokesperson called the Israeli operation a “new war crime.”
There were no special instructions issued for Israeli communities in the Gaza envelope as of Monday morning, despite concern of possible rocket fire from the Hamas-ruled Palestinian enclave. According to Israeli media, a message was conveyed to the terrorist factions in the Strip that it would be a mistake to start firing rockets.
A diplomatic source told Kan News that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad were told that they are not the targets and that if they shoot, then Israel would “respond harshly” and “with all our might.”