A day after the Israel Defense Forces completed its extensive security operation, it appears the goal of squashing Jenin’s image as a terrorist safe haven has been accomplished, with some caveats.
The IDF, backed by Shin Bet intelligence and Border Police officers, seized more than a thousand pieces of armament in Jenin camp and surrounding areas, including bombs, ammunition and guns.
Security forces questioned over 300 suspects; some 120 of them were detained. Fourteen command posts and hideouts used to coordinate terrorist activity were demolished, and six bomb-making facilities were dismantled, where security forces found over 300 bombs, bomb-making chemicals and other weapons.
Hundreds of thousands of shekels in terror funds were confiscated, and six underground shafts and two weapon pits were also found, including in a mosque.
The IDF sent a brigade-sized force of its very best, soldiers from elite units like Maglan, Duvdevan, the Paratroopers Reconnaissance Unit, the Nahal Reconnaissance Unit and Egoz, the latter of which tragically saw one of its members, non-commissioned officer Chief Sgt. David Yehuda Yitzchak, 23, killed in action.
The army killed 12 Palestinian combatants and expected to engage many more, but Jenin’s terrorists lost their motivation when they saw the IDF’s elite forces, backed by selective drone air power, approach them from multiple directions, and fled. Many appeared to seek refuge in area hospitals, in a manner reminiscent of the doctrine of using civilian shields in Gaza.
These terrorists remain in place and will have already returned to Jenin.
Zooming out, there will be additional IDF raids on Jenin, but Israel undoubtedly topped up its deterrence and made it clear to adversaries that there is no such thing as a no-go zone for the army in Judea and Samaria.
This model of operation can now be applied going forward on a need-to-do basis, and it is up to the armed factions in Jenin whether they will provoke further such actions.
A key question going forward is whether the Palestinian Authority, whose representatives were booed away at the funeral of the terrorists on Wednesday, will begin building back in Jenin, where it has lost all control.
The P.A. has an opportunity now to attempt to do this, with its domestic foes, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, as well as independent armed factions, on the back foot in the Samaria city.
Ultimately, it must be stressed that there is no silver bullet when it comes to dealing with Palestinian terrorism.
Israeli military brass view the Jenin operation as one more case of “mowing the lawn,” albeit more intensively, and not as the final word.
Jenin has a long history of infesting its surroundings and Israeli cities with deadly terrorism, and as long as it remains under a power vacuum, it will continue to serve this role, despite the fact that it experienced some economic prosperity and stability in previous years, when the P.A. was still ruling it.
As P.A. Chairman Mahmoud Abbas nears the end of his time in power, and Fatah leaders position themselves for a succession battle, the future of the P.A. and its ability to function are facing serious questions.
As far as Israel’s defense establishment is concerned, it is an Israeli security interest for the P.A. rather than Hamas or the PIJ to rule Area A of Judea and Samaria, and it remains critical to enable Palestinian civilians uninvolved in violence to continue to work in Israel, with more than 100,000 Palestinians, including thousands from Jenin, traveling to Israel for work even during the IDF operation.
Gaza’s terror factions, meanwhile, led by Hamas, will continue to try and set Judea and Samaria, as well as Jerusalem, on fire, while minimizing Gaza’s direct role in hostilities for the time being. The five rockets a terror faction fired from Gaza on Tuesday night were a symbolic effort to express solidarity with the terrorist hornet’s nest of Jenin, rather than an intent to launch a new round of fighting.