Israeli forces launched a major military operation on Monday in the Palestinian city of Jenin, on the occupied West Bank, according to multiple media reports. CBS News reports that drone strikes on the Jenin refugee camp, which Israeli officials have described as a center of terrorist activity, began in the early hours of Monday morning, and that hundreds of Israeli troops were deployed in the area later in the day. At least eight Palestinians have been killed so far and more than 50 injured, local health officials told BBC News.
CBS quoted an Israeli military spokesman, Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, saying that “the goal of the operation was to confiscate or destroy weapons belonging to Palestinian militants,” and that up to 2,000 Israeli troops would be deployed in the West Bank, the largest military escalation since 2006. BBC News described the Jenin refugee camp, which is home to roughly 18,000 people, as the “stronghold of a new generation of Palestinian militants,” and reported “intense exchanges of fire” between Israeli and Palestinian forces into Monday evening. The Israeli military said it had cut off electricity and telephone service to the refugee camp, making communication and news reporting difficult.
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said the military operation was targeting “proxies of Iran” such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and that Israel did not intend to “hold ground” in the West Bank. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, on the other hand, told BBC News that the raid was “an attempt to erase the refugee camp completely and displace the residents.” In neighboring Jordan, the government called the Israeli operation a violation of international law. The U.S. government, however, expressed support for “Israel’s security and right to defend its people against Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups.”