Four Palestinians killed in Israeli anti-terror operation
In the latest flashpoint in a year that has thus far been marked by significant violence in the region, members of the Israeli army conducted a raid Thursday near the West Bank city of Jenin that left four dead, as Fox News reports.
According to the Guardian, a 16-year-old boy was one of those killed in the operation that targeted an area known as a hotbed for Palestinian militants, and in addition to the three other fatalities, 23 others sustained injuries of varying degrees of severity.
“Terrorist activities” targeted
Israeli officials indicated that the undercover raid succeeded in taking out two militants said to have been wanted for “terrorist activities” as well as another individual who attempted to attack soldiers with a crowbar, according to the BBC.
Troops also reportedly exchanged fire with multiple gunmen, likely bringing the total deaths to four.
Fox News noted that the deaths raised the total number of Palestinians killed in similar circumstances this year to 83, with Israel accelerating the frequency of raids in the West Bank following an uptick in attacks against Israelis that have left 14 dead just this year.
Though Fox News added that while the Associated Press has suggested that roughly half of the Palestinians killed during this year's hostilities were linked to known militant groups, Israel contends that most of those who have died in fact had such affiliations.
Chaotic scene in Jenin
The BBC further reported that the raid unfolded when personnel from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Border Police, and Shin Bet security service rolled into Jenin's city center at midday.
Two cars carrying the special forces were said to have stopped in the street, the doors opened, and one of the Palestinian targets was swiftly shot in the head.
A witness indicated that another of the wanted men – a member of the military wing of Hamas – attempted to flee the scene, but that is when the Israeli forces began shooting into the street after him.
The ensuing gunfire inadvertently struck the aforementioned 16-year-old boy, who witnesses said was not linked in any way to the men sought by the Israeli troops.
Reactions pour in
In the wake of the raid, reactions began to pour in from all corners, with a Palestinian Authority spokesperson decrying what he characterized as the “brutal murder” of four.
“These continuous Israeli aggressive actions confirm that Israel is not at all interested in calming the situation and preventing its eruption,” said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, according to the BBC.
The Times of Israel reported that while the Biden administration acknowledged the Israeli right to self-defense, it also encouraged concerted action to prevent additional situations from unfolding in the future.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price stated, “Israel has the legitimate right to defend its people and its territory against all forms of aggression, including those from terrorist groups. We have seen far too many vivid demonstrations of the terrorist threat that Israel faces in recent days,” though he also urged Israel to hold its own countrymen accountable for violence perpetrated against Palestinians.
The latest outbreak of violence comes as a number of top officials from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the U.S., Jordan, and Egypt are set to converge in Sharm el-Sheikh on March 19 in an effort to ensure the peaceful passage of the Ramadan and Passover periods, as Axios reports.
A similar meeting occurred in February in Aqaba, Jordan, and although leaders from Israel and the Palestinian Authority resolved to take actions in furtherance of a de-escalation in recent hostilities, tensions flared within hours of the conference's conclusion.
Particular areas of security concern over the coming days include those near the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a location Palestinians will wish to visit during the holy period, but also across the West Bank and Jerusalem more generally, given the negative dynamic and increased violence in recent months.
Whether hostilities can be temporarily set aside in deference to the springtime convergence of religious observations, or the spiraling tensions witnessed in recent weeks will continue dangerously unabated, only time will tell.