- The Israeli military says it has withdrawn from the Palestinian city of Jenin after launching one of its biggest assaults on the occupied West Bank in decades.
- The two-day raid killed at least 12 Palestinians in Jenin and one in Ramallah, with dozens more wounded.
- Meanwhile, Israel launched air attacks on Gaza after rockets were fired from the besieged strip overnight in response to the Jenin operation.
- Thousands of Palestinians across the occupied West Bank celebrated the army’s withdrawal though many said a large Israeli force was still present.
Watch: My life as a Palestinian fighter
Here’s a rare look inside the Jenin Battalion, a recently-formed Palestinian armed group from Jenin created to fight back against Israeli military raids.
Fighter Abu Aseel, not his real name, takes us through the city and shows us how the brigade trains in preparation for Israeli attacks.
Like many young men in the impoverished refugee camp, Abu Aseel feels he was compelled to take up arms, driven by witnessing decades of violence and oppression against his community.
‘They can’t break our spirit,’ say Jenin residents
Waled Rashed Mansour’s arm is blue where an Israeli military dog attacked him, the memory as raw as the wound.
“[The Israeli army] came into our home, they blew up the doors,” the 65-year-old recalled, in the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank. “They unleashed their dog at me. The dog ran and attacked me on my chest.”
As Israel’s biggest siege on Jenin in two decades wound down, tales of trauma and devastation like Mansour’s emerged from the small settlement that has been home to three generations of Palestinians who had to flee their ancestral land during the Nakba (catastrophe) in 1948.
But also evident was a firm resolve, and a defiance aimed at Israel and its international allies.
80 percent of homes in Jenin damaged: Local official
Nearly 80 percent of homes in the Jenin refugee camp have been damaged following Israel’s two-day raid, according to the city’s Deputy Governor Kamal Abu al-Rub.
“Houses and infrastructure suffered heavy damage in the offensive,” al-Rub told Anadolu news agency. “Almost 80 percent of houses in the Jenin refugee camp were either destroyed, damaged or burned.”
The official also said dozens of vehicles and utility lines were damaged in the raid.
In photos: Funeral held for Palestinians killed in Jenin
Thousands of Palestinians have come out to take part in the funeral procession of the 12 people killed in the Israeli raid on Jenin.
UN has ‘failed us’: Mayor of Jenin
The mayor of Jenin, Nidal Obeidi, said that the United Nations and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) have failed his city.
As the main administrators of Jenin, they have failed to provide any support in the face of Israel’s large-scale raid, he said.
“They have failed us and let us down,” Obeidi told Al Jazeera, saying that the agencies have “washed their hands” of any responsibility.
The municipality of Jenin is now taking responsibility for providing support in the aftermath of the raid, the mayor adding that he is working side by side with the crews rebuilding the destroyed refugee camp.
The damage to Jenin is heavy, Obeidi said, with infrastructure from pipelines to the sewage system and electrical lines, destroyed.
Jenin has faced more than a year of Israeli military assaults, with dozens killed, the mayor said, accusing the Israeli army of committing war crimes.
Father evacuated 6 children, including special needs daughter, during raid
Ayman Saadi has six children, including a daughter with special needs, all of whom he evacuated from their home as Israeli forces raided the Jenin refugee camp.
“We were surprised to find ourselves under siege,” the 45-year-old told Al Jazeera, saying they left because there was a home beside theirs that the Israeli army wanted to bomb.
Saadi said they were expecting the raid to last just a couple of hours – not days.
They found themselves in the streets, he said, and he was even shot at with tear gas when he went to the local hospital.
He recounted the destruction the raid left behind, including flipped cars, broken doors and destroyed homes.
“Our neighbourhood is calm, there are no resistance fighters,” said Saadi. “They [the Israeli forces] are the ones who are terrorists.”
Palestinians hold funeral procession for those killed in Jenin
Thousands of Palestinians are attending the funeral procession of the 12 people killed in the Israeli raid on Jenin, according to Al Jazeera’s Samir Abu Shammala, reporting from the Palestinian city.
“There are cheers with phrases and slogans condemning the Israeli crimes,” Shammala said, adding that praise is being directed towards the fighters in Jenin for resisting the Israeli occupation.The funeral procession will end at Al Shuhada Cemetery, or Martyrs Cemetery, where prayers will be performed for the deceased, he said.
In photos: Jenin refugees return to rubble and ruin
Palestinians returned to the destroyed streets of Jenin, its paving churned up by armoured bulldozers, causing a water pipe to burst, leaving sodden piles of rubble.
Buildings were damaged, cars were overturned and some streets were left inaccessible.
Drones still heard hovering above Gaza
Israeli drones can still be heard hovering above Gaza.
Israel attacked the Gaza Strip earlier today after rockets were fired from there overnight.
Israeli warplanes targeted several sites where Palestinian factions operate in the Gaza Strip, including in the town of Beit Lahiya, in the northern part of the territory; and al-Baidar, southwest of Gaza City.
The raids caused material damage to the sites without any casualties.
Palestinian factions celebrate resistance of fighters in Jenin
Palestinian factions have celebrated the resistance of fighters in Jenin and Israel’s withdrawal.
The Jenin battalion of the al-Quds Brigades said, “Victory [was] achieved.”
Islamic Jihad also lauded the fighters, saying that the “Jenin battalion and its fighters bravely led the victory in Jenin”.
“Salute to Jenin fighters and its sons for the victory, and I call for solidarity to enhance the survival of the camp,” the group’s general secretary added.
The al-Qassam Brigades, meanwhile, said that resistance from the occupied West Bank will become “sources of pain to the enemy”.
Funerals of ‘heroes’ to take place as refugees return to Jenin
As the residents of the Jenin refugee camp who evacuated following Israel’s raid return, funerals are also being planned for those killed during it.
Described as “heroes”, their funeral processions will take place later on Wednesday, Al Jazeera’s Samir Abu Shmmala said from Jenin.
Their bodies have been transferred from Jenin’s government hospital to the mortuaries in Qabatya in southern Jenin because of a malfunction in the hospital mortuary, Shmmala said.
Generation following 2002 invasion of Jenin continues struggle: Resident
Ahmad Abu Hweileh, 56, a resident of Jenin refugee camp, says the generation who have grown up following Israel’s last large-scale attack on the camp in 2002 is continuing the struggle against the Israeli occupation.
“It is the generation of the 2002 invasion [who] are the ones who are continuing with the battle,” Abu Hweileh told Al Jazeera.
“We lived this in 2002. The most important thing is that the young men are safe,” he said.
“They said they came for the armed men, but instead they punished the people,” Abu Hweileh lamented.
Despite the destruction of the camp’s streets and infrastructure, he said, Palestinians will continue to fight for their freedom.
“The message to the world and the occupation is that this camp will keep on going. They tried to destroy it and it came back up,” he said.
Israeli officials after withdrawal: ‘This isn’t over’
Israeli officials are touting their two-day military raid on Jenin as “an overwhelming success”, according to Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan in West Jerusalem.
The army and the government say they were able to thwart “terrorist activity”, seize weapons, and arrest and interrogate dozens, said Khan.
After Palestinians responded to Israel’s assault on the refugee camp two weeks ago with improvised explosives, Israeli forces said a much larger offensive was needed, he said, adding the camp has come to symbolise Palestinian resistance.
While Israeli forces have now withdrawn from the site, they are likely to return soon.
“The message right now is, this isn’t over, they will come back,” said Khan, adding that the reeling refugee camp will still be under continued pressure.
Rebuilding Jenin a ‘long-term project’, given ‘devastation’ everywhere
Residents of the Jenin refugee camp are beginning to clean up some of the destruction caused by Israel’s attack, as the number of people returning to the camp continues to rise.
But they are returning to heavily damaged buildings, with cars ripped apart and streets left inaccessible, reduced to rubble.
“The damage is quite overwhelming,” said Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, reporting from Jenin.
While nearly 3,000 people evacuated, several thousand more also hid in their houses during the two-day raid.
They are now trying to get electricity restored to the camp and rebuild some of the damage.
“This is going to be a long-term project,” said Fisher, adding that “devastation” is everywhere.
Aid stations have been set up to offer people water and a snack, and people are now finally able to seek medical help, Fisher said.
With 20 air attacks hitting the densely populated camp, the chances of Israeli forces hitting civilians were high from the start, he added.
Why did Israel use helicopter gunships on Jenin?
Israel said it carried out 15 air raids using helicopter gunships and reconnaissance drones, along with a ground invasion using 150 armoured military vehicles and 1,000 elite special forces.
Analysts say the use of helicopter gunships signals increased intensity of Israeli assaults in the camp that has come to symbolise Palestinian resistance.
“This is an important stage which has evolved from waging a war against a small number of fighters with simple weaponry, to targeting and destroying infrastructure and homes in complete disregard to human life,” Mohammed Kamanji, a lawyer for the Independent Commission for Human Rights and a resident of the camp, told Al Jazeera.
Meanwhile, Colin Wallace, a psychological warfare specialist, told Al Jazeera that using aircraft with aerial weapons on a densely populated area is difficult to justify because of the threat to innocent bystanders and civilians.
Watch: Jenin residents return to battered camp after Israeli withdrawal
Residents who were forced to leave the Jenin refugee camp during the fighting began returning overnight on Wednesday to survey the damage from the Israeli assault.
They were met with the widespread destruction of their homes and belongings, as well as their businesses. Power and water supplies remain cut off in the camp.
Palestinians describe Israel’s deadly raid on Jenin
Thousands of Palestinian residents fled their homes in the Jenin refugee camp following Israel’s attack.
At Jenin’s public hospital, Thaer Abu Johar, 33, was eagerly biting into an apple.
“This is the first thing I ate in two days,” he told Al Jazeera on Tuesday.
Israeli forces stormed the four-storey building where his family lived with five others at noon on Monday.
A Palestinian woman also seeking refuge at Jenin’s public hospital said all her male relatives were arrested by Israeli forces, including her husband and son.
“They entered our homes in al-Mayhoub Street yesterday afternoon,” Nathmiyeh Mer’i, 53, told Al Jazeera. “They started shouting at us, ‘Don’t talk, be quiet, sit down.’”
Her three grandchildren – one, three and four years old – were “shaken”.
“I tried to distract them, play with them,” she said.
Israeli jets hit Gaza as forces leave Jenin
Israeli jets hit what Israel described as an underground weapons manufacturing facility in the Gaza Strip as the last Israeli military vehicles left Jenin.
The jets were in response to rocket fired from Gaza towards southern Israel overnight. The rockets were intercepted and there were no immediate reports of casualties.
According to local media, all Israeli forces have now withdrawn from the city in the occupied West Bank, ending a two-day operation that killed at least 12 Palestinians, and injured approximately 100 others.
Israeli army spokesperson Brigadier-General Daniel Hagari made the announcement, according to a report on the army’s radio station.
Residents who were forced to flee Jenin’s refugee camp where the raid took place began returning overnight on Wednesday to survey their destroyed homes and belongings. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said it evacuated 500 families from the camp, about 3,000 people.
Thousands of Palestinians across the West Bank celebrated the withdrawal of the Israeli forces.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA