Monday’s fighting between IDF soldiers and Palestinian gunmen in Jenin is seen by Palestinians as a sign of the Israeli military’s “weakness” in confronting the armed groups that have emerged in the northern West Bank over the past 18 months.
The clashes, which lasted for more than eight hours and resulted in seven soldiers wounded and five Palestinians dead, are also seen to be an indication of the Palestinian armed groups’ success in upgrading and developing their military capabilities and warfare tactics.
These groups seem to have gained a lot of experience as a result of almost daily clashes with Israeli security forces.
A Palestinian security source on Monday put the number of gunmen in Jenin and other parts of the northern West Bank, including Nablus, at more than 1,500.
Scenes of Palestinians celebrating with parts of IDF armored vehicles damaged by explosive devices and Apache helicopters hovering over Jenin are likely to boost the popularity of the armed groups, most of which are affiliated with Islamic Jihad and Hamas.
These images create the impression that the Israeli counterterrorism operation, which began several months ago, has failed to eradicate the armed groups. They also create the impression that certain parts of the West Bank, particularly Jenin, are beginning to resemble the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, where the IDF faced similar tactics by Palestinian terror groups and Hezbollah.
Defiant Hamas and PIJ officials expressed satisfaction with the way the gunmen in Jenin engaged the soldiers. They claimed that dozens of gunmen belonging to various groups took part in the fighting.
Hamas, Islamic Jihad leaders visit Iran
The clashes in Jenin coincided with visits to Iran by leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who held discussions with Iranian leaders about ways of strengthening the Palestinian “resistance,” especially in the West Bank. The Hamas and Jihad leaders are likely to use the clashes in Jenin to claim Iran’s support for its Palestinian proxies is paying off.
Abu Hamzeh, a spokesman for Jihad’s military wing, al-Quds Brigades, said the “heroic” actions of the gunmen in Jenin “reflects the Zionist weakness in the face of the Palestinian determination to continue the struggle and jihad until the expulsion of the occupation from Palestine.”
Abu Hamzeh said the “military action” in the West Bank won’t stop, adding that Monday’s clashes in Jenin won’t be the “last jihad.”
Mustafa Ibrahim, an Islamic Jihad-affiliated political analyst, was quoted as praising the Jenin gunmen for surprising the IDF. He claimed that the fact that the Israeli military had to use helicopters, for the first time in two decades, to rescue its soldiers and vehicles “embarrassed” the Israeli security establishment.
Another Jihad-affiliated political analyst, Sharif al-Halabi, said the events in Jenin showed that the IDF was mistaken to think that the assassination of some Islamic Jihad commanders in the Gaza Strip during the last round of fighting in May would undermine the activities of the group in the West Bank.
Hamas, for its part, said that what happened in Jenin on Monday proves that the IDF is far from achieving victory over the Palestinian “resistance” groups in the northern West Bank. “The resistance in the occupied West Bank is strong,” said Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem. “The occupation is surprised each time it tries to end the resistance. It should expect more resistance in the coming days.”
Qassem boasted that the armed groups in the West Bank have succeeded in surprising the Israeli military with “additional tactics and tools that are expanding.”
The Palestinian leadership was scheduled to hold an emergency meeting in Ramallah on Monday night to discuss the latest developments in the West Bank in the aftermath of the IDF operation in Jenin.
The Palestinian Health Ministry announced that five Palestinians were killed and 91 others wounded, 23 of them critically, during the raid. The five 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).
PLO Secretary-General Hussein al-Sheikh said the Palestinian leadership would meet to take “unprecedented decisions.” He did not provide details about the proposed decisions.
In the past, the PA leadership decided to suspend security coordination with Israel in response to the ongoing Israeli counterterrorism activities in the West Bank.
“A fierce and open political, security and economic war is being waged against our people,” Sheikh said in response to Monday’s clashes. “We are in the midst of a comprehensive battle on all fronts that requires the unity of our people in the face of this aggression.”
Sheikh later met in Ramallah with a US delegation headed by Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf and urged Washington to put pressure on Israel to halt military raids into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. Sheikh also called for an end to Israeli unilateral measures and urged the US administration to “launch a political initiative that would force Israel and the Palestinians to adhere to their commitments to preserve the two-state solution.”
PA presidential spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudaineh accused Israel of perpetrating “massacres” against the Palestinians as part of an attempt to “detonate” the region.
“The present situation cannot continue, and the international community, specifically the Biden administration, must immediately intervene to stop this Israeli madness,” Abu Rudaineh said. “The silence of the international community has encouraged the occupation government to continue its crimes and wage a comprehensive war on the Palestinians and their land and holy sites.”
Abu Rudaineh added that Israel bears responsibility for “foiling all recent Arab and international efforts to prevent escalation and tension.”