In the early hours of Monday morning, the IDF and other security forces launched an operation in the area of Jenin. The aim was clear: to deal with the terrorism emanating from Jenin – the town, the eponymous refugee camp, and surrounding villages.
The area has become a hotbed of terrorism in recent months. There has even been talk of the “Lebanonization” or “Gazafication” of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria).
Although there has been ongoing IDF military action almost nightly, the situation required something stronger. This became evident as Israeli soldiers engaged in counterterrorism operations in Jenin have faced increasingly bold attacks by terrorists and their supporters. Just weeks ago, explosive devices were detonated against Israeli troops as they pulled out of Jenin following an operation against local terrorists. Additionally, two rockets were fired at Israel from the Jenin area last week, although both landed within Palestinian Authority areas.
Acts of terror against Israelis this year
In the first six months of the year, 24 people have been killed in Israel by terrorists. Just last month, four Israelis were murdered in the terror attack at Eli. In some heartbreaking cases, more than one member of a family was murdered in an attack – such is the case of brothers Hallel and Yagel Yaniv, whose killers were apprehended in the Jenin area; the young Paley brothers, aged six and eight, murdered in a car-ramming attack at a bus stop in Jerusalem; and the Dee family who lost Lucy and two of her daughters in a drive-by shooting in the Jordan Valley.
Also in the first six months of the year, more than 50 shooting attacks were carried out by terrorists from the Jenin area, and since September 2022, 19 terrorists fled to the Jenin refugee camp after carrying out attacks.
The timing of the operation was not coincidental. Decision makers decided to wait until after the three-day Muslim Eid al-Adha festival before taking decisive action. Additionally, Israeli forces always take extra care to try to avoid civilian casualties. When these nevertheless occur, the blame should not be placed on Israel but on the terrorists who use civilians as human shields for their nefarious activities.
Even as the operation got underway, Palestinians still came to work in Israel from Judea and Samaria, and Gaza. Government ministers and spokespeople have taken care to stress that Israel is not at war with the Palestinians or Palestinian Authority but with the terrorists who operate among them. In some cases, these are members of well-organized (and well-funded) terrorist organizations; in others, they are so-called “lone wolves” who are inspired to carry out copycat attacks.
Approximately 25% of the population in the Jenin area is affiliated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad and some 20% is affiliated with Hamas, according to the IDF Spokesperson. It should be recalled that Hamas is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, while the name of Islamic Jihad is self-explanatory.
The government must carefully determine its goals and exit plan even if it doesn’t publicly announce what they are. Given the nature of the terrorist organizations – and their Iranian backers – it is not realistic to expect the operation to completely halt all terrorist activity in Jenin or in the West Bank. But the hope is to strike enough of a blow to keep the terrorists down in the immediate future and to allow Israeli (and Palestinian Authority) forces to carry out counterterrorism efforts.
This operation was overdue and deserves our support. At home, the polarized political situation should not be allowed to spill over into the operation. Opposition leader Yair Lapid issued a statement supporting the operation and the anti-judicial reform movement Brothers-in-Arms, composed of military veterans, also voiced its backing for the troops.
Similarly, Israel deserves the support of the international community. No continent has been immune to jihadist terrorism, and attacks by al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, and other terrorist organizations – the ideological siblings of the groups Israel is fighting in Jenin – have hit major cities in many Western countries.
Israel is at the forefront of the global battle against terrorism and willingly shares its intelligence and expertise to help other countries protect themselves. The least the rest of the free world can do is offer Israel support in its ongoing fight.