Israeli forces escalate attacks on Jenin camp since 7 October, killing over 20

Israeli forces escalate attacks on Jenin camp since 7 October, killing over 20
6 min read
West Bank
14 November, 2023
As of 6 October, 76 Palestinians out of the more than 240 Palestinians killed in the occupied West Bank since the start of the year by Israeli forces were killed in Jenin; since 7 October, the Israeli army and settlers have killed 186 Palestinians.
Israeli forces have destroyed most of Jenin camp's infrastructure since the beginning of 2023. [Qassam Muaddi /TNA]

This past Sunday, 12 November, Palestinians in Jenin mourned 19-year-old Ameer Arqawi, who was killed by the Israeli army in the Jenin refugee camp a day before. The teenager was the second Palestinian killed by Israeli forces in the Jenin area since last weekend, after 22-year-old Wesam Hamran scummed to his wounds in the town of Arraba, near Jenin.

Israeli forces have increased violent and deadly raids across the occupied West Bank, particularly on Jenin since 7 October, where at least five raids occurred in the past month, killing more than 20 Palestinians, mainly in the Jenin refugee camp, in addition to the use of airstrikes.

Last Thursday, Israeli forces conducted the largest raid on Jenin since February, killing 14 Palestinians and wounding dozens. The repeated raids on Jenin have caused a significant impact on the population, especially in the refugee camp, residents told The New Arab.

"For a week, me and my family are spending the night outside of the camp, over relatives, and then we come back in the day", Ismail Abu Qutneh, a 25-year-old tour guide in Jenin, told TNA. "Raids have become so common in Jenin that the camp has lost all sense of security, and we are always expecting the next raid.

"The destruction in the camp is very large, as all streets are damaged, and some have been completely destroyed by the occupation's bulldozers", he added. "Funeral homes are open across the camp, and everybody knows someone who was killed. I lost three family members in the past two weeks."

"My cousin, Thaer Abu Qutneh, was killed last Thursday, he was only 23", said Ismail. "I saw him the same day in the morning, and I was guiding a foreign journalist in the camp, and he asked me if he could work as a tour guide for foreign visitors too".

"The raid started shortly after I saw Thaer, and I had a feeling about him because he always took part in confronting the occupation soldiers", Ismail continued. "I learned about his death after the raid was over, and when I went to their house, his mother had just learned the news and began to scream and cry."

"It was heartbreaking to see, especially since the news she received was that her other son, Ahmed, only one year younger than Thaer, was also killed in the same raid. She lost both her sons the same day", he concluded. 

Israel's destruction in Jenin camp isn't merely limited to infrastructure. Since 7 October, Israeli raids have also targeted symbolic monuments in the camp. Residents see it as an attempt to break the morale of the population in the camp, which has become a symbol of resistance in Palestine.

"In the first raid after 7 October, a few days into the war in Gaza, Israeli forces didn't arrest anyone", Mostafa Shita, director of the Jenin Freedom Theater, told TNA. "Occupation soldiers came only to destroy and take their anger for what had happened around Gaza on us".

"Bulldozers destroyed the street in which Shireen Abu Akleh was killed, including the mural at the spot where she was killed, where residents and visitors place flowers", pointed out Shita.

"They also knocked out a horse monument built by a European artist who visited the camp after the battle of Jenin in 2002. The horse was built out of the pieces of an ambulance that the occupation forces had bombed during the battle, and it had a symbolic value for residents, so the soldiers dragged it across the streets for everybody to see", he noted. 

"In the same raid, the occupation soldiers also demolished two arches at the entrance of the camp that residents had built years ago in commemoration of the Nakba", added Shita. "It was very clear to us that they raided us only to take revenge and humiliate the camp, and this is what they do at each raid, even bulldozing the street in front of our theatre".

"I believe they are trying to make us all feel that we are in the same situation as Gaza, in a way to scare the population, which is also why they have been using air strikes", he remarked. "They bombed the mosque and claimed it was a hiding place for resistance fighters, but they also conducted airstrikes on houses".

On 22 October, Israeli forces bombed a mosque in Jenin camp's Damaj neighbourhood, killing two Palestinians. One of them was brought to hospital "in pieces," according to the Palestinian health ministry. Israeli media quoted the Israeli army and secret services claiming that the target of the airstrike was a "Palestinian militant cell".

"They also bombed several houses, including my neighbour's house, which was hit by an air missile last week", Najat Abu Butmeh, school teacher and director of the children's school in Jenin, told TNA. "Fortunately, the family wasn't at home, but since then, they also sleep most of the nights outside of the camp, as my family do, to avoid being around during the next raid."

"The most difficult in this situation is lived by children, who have lost their safe environment, and many of whom are refusing to attend school", noted Abu Butmeh. "At school, children have difficulty expressing their feelings or describing their experiences, especially having to leave their homes". 

"We maintained the centre open, although the occupation's bulldozers completely destroyed the street in front of it, and that even though soldiers pierced the walls of the house next door", she noted.

"We know that children need our activities, especially expressive activities, to let out their fear, but we know that once out of the centre, children will be back in the same environment, and they will go through the same traumatic experiences, especially if their families leave the camp at night to sleep over relatives or friends", she added.

Jenin has been at the centre of Israeli raids since late 2021. As of 6 October, 76 Palestinians out of the more than 240 Palestinians killed in the occupied West Bank by Israeli forces were killed in Jenin.

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Israel has increased its deadly raids on Palestinian cities since 7 October at unprecedented compared to previous years, but the rates of the raids were already at an all-time high. Between January and 6 October, Israeli forces killed 211 Palestinians in the West Bank.

Since 7 October, the Israeli army and settlers have killed 186 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

According to Palestinian human rights groups, Israeli forces arrested more than 2,000 Palestinians in the past months, while the number of Palestinians detained in Israeli jails without charges stands at 2,200, a peak unmatched in twenty years.