Israeli security officials are warning that the violence in the occupied West Bank is likely to worsen as the nightly raids by Israeli forces appear to spark more resistance from Palestinian armed groups.
In the latest incident three Palestinians were shot and killed during a raid in the Jenin refugee camp to arrest militant fugitives in the early hours of Thursday. They were named by the Palestinian ministry of health as Atta Yassin Shalabi (46), Tariq Fawzy al-Damej (29), and Sidqi Sedeek Zakarneh (29).
Fierce exchanges of fire took place before the Israeli forces withdrew with three Islamic Jihad suspects in custody. There were no Israeli casualties and at least five other Palestinians were wounded.
Hundreds of people attended the funerals of the three men on Thursday morning as residents observed a general strike.
Several Palestinian organisations in the Gaza Strip issued statements condemning the Israeli operation and urging the Palestinian residents of the West Bank to persevere with their resistance against the occupation. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas also condemned the incident, accusing Israel of trying to set the entire region on fire by means of its “criminal operations”. The statement placed full responsibility for the dangerous escalation in hostilities on Israel.
Tensions have been high in the West Bank this year with Israeli troops conducting raids almost every night as part of a major anti-terror offensive focused on the northern West Bank cities of Jenin and Nablus and the adjacent refugee camps, which are hotbeds of militant activity.
The raids came in response to a series of Palestinian attacks that have left 31 people in Israel and the West Bank dead since the start of the year. However, the clampdown appears to spurring renewed militant resistance and there has been no discernible reduction in Palestinian attacks.
Prime minister designate Binyamin Netanyahu has agreed to put much of the day-to-day running of the West Bank in the hands of the far-right, pro-settler Religious Zionism Party, in a move many fear will only increase the tension.
The army’s intelligence research department director Brig Gen Amit Saar warned this week that the situation was liable to deteriorate further, noting that there were preliminary signs that the mechanisms in place that allow Israel to manage the conflict with the Palestinians were becoming “destabilised”.
Almost 90 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank so far this year, the highest number of fatalities since 2015 – in which 99 were killed. At least 81 were shot by Israeli security forces and three were killed by Israeli civilians.
Thirty four of the Palestinians who died this year were killed in the Jenin region and seventeen in the Nablus region, which is surrounded by Israeli settlements and where security sources say the power of the Palestinian Authority is weakening. ENDS