Speaking on Wednesday after the IDF withdrew from an intensive two-day operation in Jenin, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said the IDF has achieved successes, but may need to carry out one or two additional operations to fully tame terror.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu echoed a similar theme late Wednesday, saying, “If Jenin returns to terror, we will return to Jenin – and it will happen much faster and with much greater power than what people might imagine. Whoever does not understand this today, will understand it very soon.”
Israel lost one soldier, St.-Sgt. David Yehuda Yitzhak, killed by gunfire amid clashes in the Jenin refugee camp on Tuesday evening. He was buried at the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery on Wednesday evening. The IDF is investigating if he was killed by friendly fire.
Five rockets were fired from Gaza Tuesday night, but Hezbollah stayed out of the conflict.
The operation took place between Sunday night and Monday morning, and the forces completed the withdrawal between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
Gallant said the IDF’s biggest accomplishment was to destroy the terror infrastructure and large quantities of weapons. He added that the operation also sent Jenin fighters into hiding. Yet, because half or more of the 300 terrorists in Jenin fled, additional operations may be necessary.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad's influence in Jenin
The defense minister emphasized that since Palestinian Islamic Jihad gets all of its funding from Iran, and is far more prominent in Jenin than elsewhere in the West Bank, the Islamic Republic’s hand in the city was also larger than elsewhere.
Going forward, Gallant took an aggressive view about airpower, saying that for nearly two decades he had advocated the use of airstrikes in the West Bank whenever necessary to target terrorists escaping from an area they attacked, or to assist soldiers in a fight with Palestinians. He added that the military’s drone capabilities are very precise, which led to zero civilian casualties – despite more than 20 airstrikes.
IDF sources said on Wednesday that despite the massive attack, most of Jenin was not seriously physically damaged.
Other sources added that Israeli security forces permitted very large numbers of Jenin residents to continue to work in Israel, along with the majority of 210,000 West Bank Palestinians who regularly work in Israel.
This was to make the point that Palestinians could maintain their routine and that, with little damage to property, even Jenin residents could return to normal quickly, provided they were not involved in terror.
Sources indicated that in much of the West Bank, increasing worker permits was successful, but because of unique ideological and cultural aspects in Jenin, that strategy wouldn’t work there. Part of the problem is that many of its residents are associated with PIJ and funded by Iran.
Both Gallant and IDF sources expressed hope that the Palestinian Authority would take better charge of Jenin, which is under its control. However, both the defense minister and military sources said they did not expect the PA to succeed and did not have clear answers about what would reduce terror from Jenin in the long term.
The operation came after a spike in terror from the West Bank, with over 50 attacks emanating from Jenin in the last several months, while 19 terrorists found refuge there.
The terror wave in the West Bank dates back to March last year, but after 15 months of smaller nightly raids and arrests, the IDF and the government decided a larger operation was needed.