Israel increases raids on Palestinian territories in response to attacks

JENIN, West Bank – Ramadan nights in this Palestinian city are usually spent staying up late watching TV series and comedies during top tv seasons, pray or drink coffee and hookah at all-night cafes.

But this year in Jenin, amid a widespread Israeli military campaign across the occupied West Bank, people are staying up late at night waiting for the next military ambush in their city.

“We were exhausted,” said Israa Awartani, 32, who works at a theater. “We started to think: ‘When is it our turn? When will it be my son or another family member? ”

Over the past week, Israeli forces have carried out an extensive air campaign against towns and cities across the West Bank, in response to a recent wave of Palestinian attacks inside Israel that have left 14 people dead. die. Israeli authorities have imposed temporary economic sanctions and arrested dozens of people.

Israel says the increased military operations are a counter-terrorism effort to prevent further attacks, and it has focused them on the hometowns and villages of the recent attackers. However, Palestinian residents and critics see the operation as collective punishment and counterproductive, as it will only fuel a cycle of hatred and bloodshed.

At least 14 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since the start of Ramadan on April 2, including 16-year-old Mohammad Zakarneh, who was shot dead Sunday during an Israeli raid in Jenin, the mother of Jenin. he said. He is leaving his job at a manufacturing store and going home to fast his Ramadan. The Israeli military would not comment on his death.

Also killed was Ghada Sabteen, 47, a widow and mother of six who was shot in the leg as she approached soldiers at a checkpoint near Bethlehem. Palestinian authorities have called for an investigation into her killing, but the Israeli military has not commented on whether it will launch an investigation.

On Wednesday, Mohammad Assaf, a 34-year-old lawyer, was shot in the chest and killed during a raid in the city of Nablus, reportedly shortly after dropping off his children at school.

Israel’s military action comes amid worst wave of violence in Israel since 2016. Latest News attackOn April 7, a 28-year-old Palestinian gunman from Jenin opened fire outside a crowded bar in Tel Aviv, killing two people and injuring 13 others. He was later shot dead by Israeli police forces. Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, condemned the attack.

This week, the Palestinian Authority also condemned Israeli raids in the West Bank and killing of civilians, calling it collective punishment and calling on the international community to intervene. The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it demanded that Israel take full responsibility for the consequences of its actions.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967 and controls more than 60% of its territory. It maintained a two-tier legal system there – one for five million stateless Palestinians and one for Israeli settlers – and restricted the movement of Palestinians and other rights, a system that today More and more human rights groups and advocates have called for racist.

Government of Israel, in response such a recent accusation from a United Nations investigator, said it was unfair to blame Israel for the system in light of threats posed by armed Palestinian groups in the occupied territories.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Israel carried out the attack.

“The State of Israel will do everything necessary to overcome this terror. We will deal with accounts with everyone involved, directly or indirectly, with the attacks,” he said, adding, “We will reach wherever necessary, regardless of the circumstances.” at any time, to root out these terrorist activities. “

He said there were “no restrictions” on the country’s security forces.

Over the past week, Israeli forces have raided Jenin nearly every day or night, according to local officials and residents. The city, like most Palestinian urban centers in the West Bank, is administered by the Palestinian Authority, but Israeli forces regularly conduct nighttime raids and arrests in these areas. In January, during one such raid in the village of Jiljilya, a 78-year-old Palestinian-American man died while in custody.

Rather than contain the latest wave of attacks, Israel’s actions will have the opposite effect, said a Western diplomat in Ramallah. The diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Israel’s aggressive approach risks creating a cycle of frustration, despair and new victimization.

Before going to work every morning, Ms. Awartani checks the latest news on local social media.

“I was afraid that I was going to work and suddenly I met Israeli soldiers on the street and they might shoot me,” said the mother of three girls, two 7-year-olds and a 3-year-old girl. “I could die, I could be paralyzed. Then who will take care of my daughters? ”

Ms. Awartani works in accounting at Freedom Theater, the center of cultural resistance in Jenin. The theater canceled the show during the month of Ramadan out of respect for those killed in Israeli raids on the city and its refugee camp.

Mustafa Sheta, the theater manager, said he was afraid to send his four children to school every morning, and was worried Israeli snipers might still be on the rooftops.

Ms Awartani said her sister-in-law refused to go to bed before her two college-age sons did, fearing they would leave the house at night and be shot dead in a raid.

Awartani said: “We were all afraid of losing our baby.

Jenin is also the target of economic sanctions. On April 9, Israel’s Defense Minister, Benny Gantz, closed the border crossing between Jenin and Israel, preventing tens of thousands of Israeli Palestinian citizens from coming to Jenin to shop – a mainstay of the economy. city.

Jenin merchants and businessmen with permits to enter Israel were no longer allowed to travel, and the carriage of all goods and products from Jenin was also prohibited. Permits that had been issued to 5,000 Jenin residents to visit relatives in Israel were also revoked.

Border crossings were reopened on Saturday, but it is unclear whether other restrictions will be lifted.

“The goal is always to increase the pressure but it never works. If it works, you won’t see a cycle of violence like we see every year,” said Tahani Mustafa, a West Coast analyst with the International Crisis Group. “Israel is re-using the same strong-willed response to what it sees as provocative actions by the Palestinians.”

After last week’s attack in Tel Aviv, some Israelis say violence has broken out memory about the second Palestinian uprising, and its violent suppression by Israel, a period of unrest that lasted from 2000 to 2005 and killed an estimated 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis.

For Palestinians, too, Israel’s response brought back memories of the intifada invasion, which left scars that are still evident in Jenin. In the area of ​​the city where the refugee camp originated, bullet holes pierced the walls of many buildings. Many houses were built after 2002, when Israel Raze hundreds of buildings in response to a string of suicide bombings.

Everywhere along the walls were posters of people killed by Israel – some of them members of Palestinian militant groups, some of them civilians. The faces of those killed in the past week of violence have yet to be added to the walls of the camp.

On a recent morning at intersections and roundabouts, students walked past tires stacked like pillars and trash cans used to block roads to slow Israeli incursions. . Hours after Israeli forces pulled out, a landfill was still smoldering as children walked home.

At a jewelry store in Jenin’s main shopping district, lights twinkled over rows of gold jewelry. But there are very few buyers.

With Israel banning vehicles from Jenin, business owners say they have lost more than half of their customers by the end of Ramadan, one of the busiest shopping seasons of the year.

The jewelry store owner, Abdullah Dawaseh, 60, says that like Palestinians who survived the intifada, they will survive the intifada.

Hours earlier, the Israeli army had raided an area less than half a mile from the commercial area.

“When you punish the entire population, the entire population explodes,” he said, speaking from behind a counter filled with diamond rings. “Just as they want to be safe when shopping, we also want to be safe when shopping.”

Report contributed by Rawan Sheikh Ahmad in Haifa, Myra Noveck in Jerusalem and Gabby Sobelman in Rehovot, Israel.

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