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Nine Palestinians martyred in Israeli raid in West Bank

Nine Palestinians martyred in Israeli raid in West Bank
January 26, 2023 Web Desk

JENIN (AFP) - Israeli forces in a West Bank raid killed nine Palestinians and fired tear gas inside a hospital children's ward, Palestinian officials said, while the Israeli military said they had traded fire with Islamist militants during a "counterterrorism operation".

The bloodiest violence in months in the Palestinian territories erupted during a raid on the crowded refugee camp in the northern city of Jenin, where gunshots rang through the streets and smoke billowed from burning street barricades.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said that the death toll from the clashes rose to "nine martyrs, including an elderly woman" and that 20 people were wounded before the Israeli forces withdrew mid-morning.

The military said Israeli forces came under fire during a "counterterrorism operation to apprehend an Islamic Jihad terror squad", whose members they blamed for past attacks, and had shot several enemy combatants.

Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kaila charged that "occupation forces stormed Jenin Government Hospital and intentionally fired tear gas canisters at the paediatric department in the hospital", leaving children choking.

Israel's army repeatedly declined to comment when asked by AFP about the minister's tear gas allegation.

The minister described the situation in the crowded refugee camp as "critical" and said Israeli forces were preventing ambulances from reaching the wounded.

Jenin deputy governor Kamal Abu al-Rub told AFP that residents were living in a "real state of war" and charged that "the Israeli army is destroying everything and shooting at everything that moves."

The military said that the incursion targeted Palestinians from the Islamic Jihad militant group who were allegedly behind attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians.

'International silence'

Thursday's reported fatalities bring the number of Palestinians killed in the West Bank so far this year to 29, including fighters and civilians, most of whom were shot by Israeli forces. An AFP photographer saw young Palestinians throwing rocks at Israeli military vehicles before the forces withdrew from Jenin.

At least 26 Israelis were killed and 200 Palestinians martyred across Israel and the Palestinian territories in 2022, the majority in the West Bank, according to an AFP tally from official sources. Israel has occupied the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day War. The Palestinian presidency said Thursday's raid on Jenin was happening "under international silence".

'Decisive battle'

"This is what encourages the occupation government to commit massacres against our people in full view of the world," said Nabil Abu Rudeinah, spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

The Palestinian health minister called for an urgent meeting with the World Health Organization and the International Committee of the Red Cross over the events in Jenin.

The Palestinian militant group Hamas, which rules Gaza, said "what's happening in Jenin is part of a decisive battle with the occupation," its term for Israel. "Resistance factions are playing their leading role in confronting the occupation," said Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem.

The latest violence comes a day after Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinians in separate incidents.