Brief: Israel's Attack on Jenin
July 20 2023

In the early hours of July 3, Israeli Occupation Forces stormed the Jenin refugee camp in the Occupied West Bank. The next 48 hours would turn into the largest Israeli onslaught on Jenin since 2002, killing at least 12 Palestinians, injuring hundreds more, and forcing 3,000 Palestinians to evacuate.

Palestinian residents of the Jenin refugee camp reported hearing sounds of gunfire and explosions and receiving SMS messages from Israeli authorities announcing its military operation to go after its intended targets, refusing to stop “until they [Palestinian resistors] are removed.”

For the next two days, 14,000 Palestinians living in the crowded Jenin refugee camp would experience the absolute destruction of their homes, businesses, hospitals, and schools. Every street with an entrance to Jenin was blocked off by the Israeli forces, imposing a siege on the city. During this time, dozens of Palestinians were arrested, hundreds were injured, and homes were broken into and ransacked; an ATM machine was also blown up by Israeli forces, who stole the money it stored.

In an interview with BBC, Yara Hawari of Al-Shabaka said that “what we’re seeing happening in Jenin is an attempt to crush Palestinian resistance to Occupation.” To call the invasion of Jenin an “operation against terrorist infrastructure” is a “complete lie,” Hawari tweeted.

Israeli raids and attacks on the Jenin refugee camp have become increasingly common since the beginning of 2023. In January, 10 Palestinians in Jenin were murdered by Israeli forces. In June, Israeli forces stormed the camp and killed 6 Palestinians using military-grade helicopters for the first time since 2002 to bomb the camp. These consistent attacks aim to make an example of Jenin to all Palestinians to show that resisting will result in violent retaliation.

The Israeli narrative depicting Palestinians as “terrorists,” largely accepted by Western media, carries no weight in productive discussions of Occupied people or international human rights laws. Husam Zomlot, the head of the Palestinian Mission to the UK, recently spoke with a BBC Radio 4 presenter, where he was met with the same racist rhetoric. He responded that “it’s the Palestinian people who have the right to defend themselves against a belligerent Occupation.” Human rights attorney, Noura Erakat, further disproved the Israeli narrative with her tweets that the attack on Jenin is “indiscriminate as it [Israeli forces] cannot distinguish a military and civilian target. The purpose of Israel’s attack was to spread terror among the civilian population.” This aligns with the excessive brutality committed by Israeli forces. During the July raid, Israeli forces either completely or partially destroyed 80% of the buildings in the refugee camp, cut off electricity and water to all of Jenin’s hospitals while deploying teargas canisters, and shooting directly at journalists.

Ahmed Tobasi of the Jenin Freedom Theatre reported witnessing buildings in the densely populated camp being bombed and bulldozed while cars were set ablaze by Israeli forces. Palestinian residents were held up in their homes without electricity, water, or internet and were teargassed when attempting to flee the brutality and destruction. The scenes coming out of Jenin reminded Palestinians across the West Bank and the world of the Nakba, as nobody was spared from Israeli violence, and many residents had no choice but to evacuate amid active gunfire. Al-Haq reported that even as Palestinians attempted to find shelter in Jenin Governmental Hospital, Israeli forces positioned snipers around the facility.

 On July 5, the two-day Israeli siege on the camp ended; Israeli forces retreated in the face of Palestinian resistance. Palestinians from the Jenin camp returned to their now destroyed homes and uninhabitable neighborhoods. Rebuilding the camp may take months or years, considering the lack of resources. Still, Jenin remains resilient and steadfast in the wake of another brutal Israeli attack. Palestinians say Israeli forces failed in their goal to crush resistance efforts. Mohammed Mhawish writes, “Today, we mourn the tragic loss of our loved ones who were killed by this aggression. But we know that the Palestinian spirit cannot be dimmed—so tomorrow, the struggle continues.”

About The Author: 

Asma Barakat is the co-creator of an oral history archive titled Rooted in Palestine. Asma holds an MA in Sociology from The New School and a BA in Political Science from Montclair State University.

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