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Israel to press ahead against ‘nest of terrorists’ in Jenin

The operation will continue "as long as necessary" to restore security, says Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

IDF soldiers in Jenin, July 3, 2023. Credit: Israel Defense Forces.
IDF soldiers in Jenin, July 3, 2023. Credit: Israel Defense Forces.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Monday night to press forward “for as long as necessary” with the military operation in Jenin, which he said had become “a city of refuge for terrorism.”

Netanyahu held a security assessment at the Beit Lid base with the participation of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi and Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) chief Ronen Bar.

“Our forces entered the nest of terrorists in Jenin: They are targeting terrorists. They are arresting fugitives. They are destroying command centers and seizing considerable weaponry. They are doing something else—they are destroying laboratories, of an almost industrial scale, for producing explosives, bombs and devices for killing and murdering Israeli citizens,” said Netanyahu.

“They are doing all of this in one of the most crowded places on earth and they are doing so with minimal injury to civilians, and without any injury to non-combatants. This is the directive: Take care of the security of our forces and also to avoid injury to innocents,” he added.

The prime minister said that the operation would “add to the deterrent capability of the State of Israel, both in defending against additional terrorist attacks and in changing the equation in the area…. We will continue this action as long as necessary in order to restore quiet and security for the citizens of Israel.”

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.

Over 1,000 IDF troops are participating in the campaign, which is believed to be the largest deployment in Judea and Samaria in two decades.

The military said on Tuesday its forces had killed 10 Palestinians, adding that all of those killed had been combatants.

Israeli troops have arrested 120 wanted terror suspects and are still searching for 350 additional suspects in Jenin, of which 160 are in the refugee camp.

Despite Monday’s announcement by Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas that he was ending security cooperation with Israel, the IDF denied ties had been severed.

“The resistance of the gunmen [overnight] was low. They ran away from the targets we reached,” said IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari Hagari on Tuesday.

He suggested that the operation was likely to conclude within days.

Defense Minister Gallant was briefed Tuesday on the ongoing counterterrorism operations, including “the pursuit of terrorists, demolition of terror infrastructure and the operational achievements,” per a statement from his office.

The minister emphasized the need “to ensure freedom of operation for troops on the ground by eliminating terror infrastructure including ‘war rooms’ and terrorist hideouts, as well as confiscating weapons and explosive devices.”

On Monday night, some 3,000 Palestinians left the Jenin refugee camp to escape the battles. Arrangements have been made to house those who fled in schools and other shelters elsewhere in Jenin.

“Anyone who wants to leave is allowed,” said Hagari, while noting that the IDF had not ordered an evacuation or closure of the city.

Overnight Monday, Israeli forces located and destroyed grenade launchers and IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices), and confiscated weapons and other military equipment.

Chief of Staff Halevi visited with troops in Jenin and conducted an assessment with commanders in the field.

An hours-long standoff between soldiers and terrorists holed up in a mosque ended on Monday evening as Israeli forces took control of the lower floor of the building.

The IDF said soldiers entered the premises only after an exchange of fire, and found two underground pits containing weapons and explosives.

Forces also located an explosives workshop in the Jenin refugee camp containing hundreds of IEDs, as well as mines intended for use against armored vehicles.

The IDF conducted drone strikes against various targets in the refugee camp.

“We support Israel’s security and right to defend its people against Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups,” a spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council said in a White House statement on Monday.

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.

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