analysisIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

Inside the Jenin Refugee Camp, the Palestinian ‘Martyr’s Capital’

Twenty years later, Israel is being forced to resort to the same tactics used during the Second Intifada.

Armed Palestinians in Jenin as Israel begins a major aerial and ground offensive in the northern Samaria city. July 3, 2023. Photo by Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90.
Armed Palestinians in Jenin as Israel begins a major aerial and ground offensive in the northern Samaria city. July 3, 2023. Photo by Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90.
Baruch Yedid

Since Monday’s predawn hours, the Jenin refugee camp has been the epicenter of intense fighting between Palestinian terror groups and the Israel Defense Forces.

The camp is home to 18,000 Palestinians densely packed in an area about half a square kilometer (0.2 square miles) in size. Established in 1953, the U.N.-administered camp is often referred to by Palestinians as the “Martyr’s Capital.” Between 2000 and 2003, during the Second Intifada, at least 28 Palestinian suicide bombers came from the Jenin camp.

The refugee camp became a stronghold of terror, particularly for those aligned with Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and a number of smaller local factions. PIJ receives direct support from Iran while other factions often receive indirect assistance. Tehran’s relations with Palestinian terror groups, like its other regional proxy militias, are overseen by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared in 2014, “I believe the West Bank should be armed just like Gaza.”

Hamas and Islamic Jihad have transferred tens of millions of shekels to terror groups in the camp in 2023 alone.

The results speak for themselves. In 2023, 50 attacks against Israelis came from the Jenin Camp. Since September, 19 terrorists have fled to the camp after carrying out attacks. Ten homes inside the camp have been demolished by Israeli authorities so far in 2023.

One PIJ terrorist killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza in May had worked to establish rocket capabilities for the terror group in Jenin. Israeli intelligence has also detected an increase in the quality of explosive charges being used in the camp. Soldiers operating in the camp on Monday discovered a weapons laboratory and an improvised rocket launcher.

A major security operation by the Palestinian Authority seeking to crack down on the terror groups in 2022 failed as soon as it started because the terror groups had far higher morale. The operation’s leader was subsequently dismissed by Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas.

When Israel raided the camp in 2002, it met fierce, well-armed resistance.

Booby traps were laid throughout the camp, but Israeli soldiers cleared away many of the explosives with armored bulldozers. Soldiers also advanced through the camp in house-to-house fighting by punching holes in the walls, avoiding exposure to traps outside.

Twenty years later, Israel is being forced to use those tactics again.

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