Israeli forces in the West Bank killed 10 Palestinians Thursday, officials in the occupied territory said, nine of them in a raid the Israeli military described as a “counterterrorism operation”.
The bloodiest day in the West Bank in years erupted during a raid on the crowded refugee camp in the northern city of Jenin, where gunshots rang through the streets and smoke billowed from burning street barricades.
The Palestinian health ministry said the death toll from the clashes rose to nine, including a woman, and that 20 people were wounded before the Israeli forces withdrew mid-morning.
The military said Israeli forces came under fire during a “counterterrorism operation to apprehend an Islamic Jihad terror squad” and shot several enemy combatants.
Since its records began in 2005, the United Nations has never recorded such a high death toll in a single operation in the West Bank.
A tenth Palestinian was subsequently shot dead by Israeli forces in Al-Ram, near Ramallah, the Palestinian health ministry said.
The official Palestinian news agency Wafa said he was shot in clashes which erupted during a protest against the killings in Jenin.
The violence prompted the Palestinian Authority to announce it was cutting security coordination with Israel, a move criticised by the United States.
Among those confirmed dead in Jenin was Majeda Obeid, 61, who lived some metres (yards) from the house targeted by the Israeli forces.
Her daughter, Kefiyat Obeid, told AFP that her mother was shot as she peered out her window at the clashes.
“After she finished her prayers, she stopped for a moment to look and, as she stood up, she was hit in the neck by a bullet and she fell against the wall and then to the floor,” the 26-year-old told AFP, as bloodstains soaked into the rug of their home.
‘State of panic’
The military said the incursion targeted Islamic Jihad militants who were allegedly behind attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians and, according to Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, were planning “to conduct a terror attack in Israel”.
Three Palestinians were shot in a firefight, while Israeli forces shot a further two “fleeing the scene”, an army statement said. Israeli forces also shot a sixth suspect inside a building, and other Palestinians were hit after firing on troops, the army said.
“Claims regarding additional casualties during the exchange of fire are being looked into,” it added.
There were no casualties among the Israeli forces, the military said.
Wisam Bakr, director of the Jenin Government Hospital, said there was a “state of panic” in the paediatric ward with some children suffering from tear gas inhalation.
The Israeli military told AFP “the activity was not far away from the hospital and it is possible some tear gas entered through an open window”.
Jenin resident Umm Youssef Al-Sawalmi said homes were hit during the raid. “Windows, doors, walls and even the refrigerator, everything was damaged by the bullets,” she told AFP.
Islamic Jihad spokesman Tariq Salmi vowed that “the resistance is everywhere and ready and willing for the next confrontation”.
The latest deaths bring the number of Palestinians killed in the West Bank so far this year to 30, including fighters and civilians, most of whom were shot by Israeli forces.
Saleh al-Arouri, deputy leader of Palestinian militant group Hamas which rules Gaza, vowed that Israel “will pay the price for the Jenin massacre”.
Washington on Thursday announced US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel next week to Israel and the Palestinian territories, where he will push for an “end to the cycle of violence”.
The Arab League held “the Israeli government led by (Benjamin) Netanyahu fully responsible for committing the horrific bloody massacre”.
The mounting toll follows the deadliest year in the Palestinian territory recorded by the UN.
At least 26 Israelis and 200 Palestinians were killed across Israel and the Palestinian territories in 2022, the majority in the West Bank, according to an AFP tally from official sources.
UN peace envoy Tor Wennesland said he was “deeply alarmed and saddened by the continuing cycle of violence in the occupied West Bank”.
Thousands flocked to funerals in Jenin, as the Palestinian presidency announced three days of mourning. It charged that Thursday’s raid on Jenin was happening “under international silence”.
“This is what encourages the occupation government to commit massacres against our people in full view of the world,” said Nabil Abu Rudeinah, spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.