Two IDF soldiers and five Border Police officers were wounded in Jenin on Monday during a firefight that lasted hours and included the ambush of an armored military vehicle. The plan was to arrest two terror operatives: one from Hamas and one from Islamic Jihad.
Palestinian reports said five Palestinians were killed in the clashes and 28 were wounded, some in serious conditions. The Israeli forces were wounded when an improvised explosive device (IED) struck their armored vehicle.
One Border Police officer was in moderate to serious condition and was evacuated to the Emek Medical Center in Afula, while the others, with wounds ranging from light to moderate, were evacuated to the Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa. Additionally, an Oketz unit dog – Dago – was injured in the operation and received care at Rambam as well.
The Palestinian Health Ministry announced that of the 28 wounded, 23 were critically injured. The five dead were identified as Khaled Azzam Asaseh, 21, Ahmed Yousef Saqer, 15, Qassam Faisal Abu Sirriyeh, 29, Qais Majdi Jabareen, 21, and Ahmed Daraghmeh (whose age was not disclosed).
Five to seven IDF vehicles were stuck in the area for several hours until they could be successfully extracted, the army said.
IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Daniel Hagari said the IDF used a mix of helicopters, drones and reinforcements to establish control over the area.
In the middle of the operation, the IDF used a helicopter to fire a missile at an open area to allow for extraction. This was the first time the IDF has fired a missile from a helicopter in the West Bank in around 20 years.
Hagari downplayed the idea that the IED used against the IDF vehicle was a new weapon, sourced from the outside. He added though that the IDF still needed to investigate how the ambush succeeded at causing such damage to an armored vehicle.
The military said the consequences for relations with the Palestinian Authority are unclear, whether Gaza will respond and whether the IDF might consider a larger operation in Jenin. Israeli media reported on Monday night that security officials were concerned about revenge attacks.
Israel Police chief Kobi Shabtai, Border Police commander Amir Cohen and the commander of West Bank police district Barak Mordechai visited the wounded soldiers at Rambam.
“We succeeded in arresting the wanted suspects. We are determined to recover and return to operation,” the wounded officers told them.
Shabtai told the officers they acted “professionally, under risk in a complex task to thwart terrorism. We are in a challenging security reality. All of the security agencies are sending a clear message: we will catch terrorists wherever necessary.”
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, in Paris for a major air force and defense expo said they acted bravely and wisely once the situation got messy. He added that throughout his time as defense minister he has emphasized and continues to reiterate that “we will get to every terrorist.”
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said that “the time has come to replace the pinpoint activity with a broader operation to eradicate the nests of terrorism in northern Samaria and to restore deterrence and security in the region. The time has come to bring in air forces.” He said he would demand a cabinet meeting on the matter.
Likud MK Danny Danon stated in response to the incident that “northern Samaria is turning into something similar to southern Lebanon in the breadth and quality of the attacks. This is the time to give the green light to IDF soldiers” to address the enclaves of terrorism.
National Unity Party head Benny Gantz stated that the importance of the operation to “maintain security in the West Bank is critical to the security of Israeli citizens. It is good that the IDF has freedom of action.
Hamas: Clashes are 'clear answer' to threats against West Bank
The UAE's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement late on Monday "strongly condemned the Israeli attacks" and called on the Israeli authorities to reduce the escalation and not to take steps that exacerbate tensions and violence in the Palestinian territories, according to UAE-based Al-Ain media.
Saleh Al-Arouri, deputy head of Hamas political bureau, welcomed the clashes on Monday, stating "The heroic response that the resistance waged in Jenin and its camp against the Zionist aggression today is a clear answer to the enemy's continuous threats to the West Bank, and the occupation must consider any folly that it thinks of committing."
"We express our pride in the unity of the resistance fighters of all factions in the field of battle with the enemy today, and we affirm that the sacrifices of our people, including martyrs and wounded, will not be in vain. We have warned Netanyahu that harming the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque is playing with fire, and that our people and their valiant resistance will continue to defend Al-Aqsa, regardless of the sacrifices."
Palestinian Islamic Jihad Secretary-General Ziyad al-Nakhala welcomed the clashes as well on Monday evening, stating "What happened in Jenin is an extension of the battle of the Unity of the Squares (the terrorist movement's name for the August 2022 Operation Breaking Dawn)."
"The confrontation in Jenin today was of great importance during which seven military vehicles were damaged through the modest weapons of the resistance, which is an important achievement," added al-Nakhala. "I thank our brothers in the engineering units of the Jenin Battalion of the al-Quds Brigades, who made these explosive devices - which damaged seven vehicles of the occupation - out of nowhere."
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement referred to the clashes in Jenin on Monday as "Operation Bass al-Ahrar" (the "Fury of the Free").
Khaled Abu Toameh and Judy Siegel-Itzkovich contributed to this report.