On Sunday night the Israeli military officially launched a targeted military operation against the city of Jenin, located in the northern occupied West Bank, in an effort to score political points for the Netanyahu government and collectively punish the inhabitants of the area for resisting. This assault came as the direct result of a failed US strategy to prevent any further violent escalations inside the occupied territories, and the operation is now receiving the full blessing of the American government.
Israeli airstrikes rained down on the city of Jenin and the nearby Jenin refugee camp, this Sunday night, killing at least three Palestinians in the initial set of strikes. For hours prior to this there was a heavy and unusual presence of military attack drones in the skies of the occupied Palestinian city. Israel then decided to strike a building that is open to the public, located next to two UN facilities and a school, labelling it as the “headquarters” for the Jenin Brigades armed group. The Israeli military published aerial shots of the street, highlighting the building they initially struck, complaining about how such a target was placed next to civilian areas, providing no evidence that the site was used by the armed groups. Local residents in Jenin denied the allegations of the occupation army.
On Monday morning, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a speech in which he stated that the military operation in Jenin “will continue as long as it takes to complete the mission”, however, not specifying what the end goal actually was. In the official Israeli propaganda narrative, they have depicted Jenin a “hub for terrorism” and claimed once again that it has the “right to self defense”, something that the US Biden administration immediately came out to support. The White House refused to condemn the documented Israeli attacks on mosques, hospitals, ambulances, journalists, and the murder of unarmed civilians, instead giving unequivocal backing to Israel’s so-called “right to defend” itself. Washington’s support for this Israeli military operation reflects the acceptance that months of attempts, spearheaded by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, failed to calm tensions and prevent an escalation. This is important to point out, because the multiple security conferences and trips to the country by American officials proved useless, something that anyone with the most basic grasp on the conflict could see coming from a mile away. The US government proposals to both the Israelis and the PA have not only been weak, short-sighted, and biased, but reflect a kind of immaturity in the American regime’s approach.
The Palestinian Authority (PA), which holds partial governing powers over the occupied city of Jenin, issued a statement stating that the PA, “urgently calls upon the international community to immediately intervene to stop Israel’s aggression and ongoing onslaught against Jenin refugee camp”. The PA press release went on to say that Israel is the belligerent occupying party and therefore “do not have any right to so-called self-defence, occupied people do.” Despite such condemnations and claims by the Ramallah based PA, that it will cut its security coordination with the Israeli occupation forces, it became clear that the PA has played a supporting role to Israel’s operation. Security coordination is why why someone like Benjamin Netanyahu has come out to publicly endorse strengthening the PA, and the claim that the policy has ended has little weight to it since this is sixth time in recent years that this has been expressed, with the declarations always turning out to be lies. The PA security forces even arrested a commander of the Jaba Brigades armed group, who was on his way with another fighter to confront Israeli invading forces in Jenin — the commander has been wanted for over a year by the Israeli military and the Palestinian security forces arrested just him first.
The current military operation has no clear goal, as it is likely that the Netanyahu government is unsure about how to actually solve the problem of the armed groups and certainly doesn’t want to get any of its soldiers killed in the process, something that would cost it politically. The hardline ministers in Israel’s far-right government, such as Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, are themselves illegal West Bank settlers and were pressuring Benjamin Netanyahu and his defense minister, Yoav Gallant, to act forcefully against the armed groups following calls from illegal settler communities to do so. There is also an ongoing Israeli campaign that threatens civil disobedience against the government over the planned legal system reforms. So far the occupying forces have conducted the largest operation inside the West Bank since the Second Intifada, with the largest concentration of troops inside Jenin since 2002.
Jenin camp. pic.twitter.com/TEqWM41dyL
— TIMES OF GAZA (@Timesofgaza) July 4, 2023
Itamar Ben Gvir, Israel’s Security Minister, stated only a week ago that “this government has killed 120 terrorists in the last six months. There will be more in the future. But more is needed. The public wants more and we are capable of more.” The above mentioned quote stated the total number of Palestinians murdered at that point in the West Bank; including women, elderly people, and over 20 children in the statistic, labelling them all “terrorists”, which is indicative of the way Israeli politicians think. Every Palestinian they kill, even little girls who are shot in the back of the head by highly trained snipers, are considered terrorists. The majority of the Israeli public and their elected officials hold deeply racist views against Palestinians and this is why military operations, like the current one in Jenin, receive significant support, the only thing that undermines support for such military operations are Israeli casualties.
The nature of Israel’s operation inside Jenin is designed to try and hold back from it appearing as if they are conducting a full scale invasion, instead attempting to convince people that it is fighting terrorism. Realistically, the Israeli military only had two viable options going into this operation; completely eliminating all of the Jenin Brigades fighters or cutting them temporarily back to an acceptable size. It took some time for other areas in the West Bank to rise up and act, however, on Monday night demonstrators began clashing with Israeli forces all over the occupied territory, as various areas in occupied East Jerusalem also experienced violent confrontations.
Although Israel claims to be defending itself against some sort of a sophisticated group of terrorists, the reality is basically the opposite. The Jenin Brigades is a combination of groups, which fight under the same banner inside the Jenin area, with the base of operations being primarily located in the refugee camp. The fighters number into the thousands in total for the entirety of Jenin, however, the properly trained forces are much fewer in number. The large majority of them are young men and teenagers, between the ages of 17 and 24. They bare light weapons like AK-47’s, M-16’s and other semi-automatic rifles, in addition to this they have made there own homemade light explosive devices, some of which have recently developed to the point of being capable of penetrating Israeli military vehicles. Most of the fighters have no formal military or firearms training, also choosing to remain inside their local areas. They do not travel to carry out their ambushes or shoot at Israeli forces outside of Jenin, they only attack when Israeli forces come to them, with the exception of some ineffective shooting from a distance towards heavily fortified occupation force checkpoints.
When these groups are interviewed it is very clear that they — at least until this time — are focused on protecting their local areas and are not looking to go on the offensive. When some individuals choose to attack Israeli settlers or soldiers, they are almost always immediately killed however, and the recent shooting, that resulted in the killing of 4 Israelis at the illegal settlement of Eli, is an example of this. This all being said, there is no reasonable argument that Israel has to suggest that it is protecting itself, instead it is actually the other way around, which is something they cannot allow as the occupying power.
The biggest concern for Tel Aviv, is that the Jenin Brigades grow significantly stronger and begin to inspire resistance groups to pop up all over the West Bank, further weakening the Palestinian Authority that is on Israel’s side. The prospect of armed militia groups that could potentially end up posing a threat to the PA’s rule is most worrying to the Israelis, which is why they will work hard to prevent this ever happening. There is now the possibility, however, that this military operation could severely backfire, due to a lack of clear goals, only serving to further motivate the Palestinian youth to take up arms elsewhere.