Two Palestinians die in gun battle as Israel raids Jenin refugee camp | Israel


Israeli forces have raided a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, setting off a gun battle in which two Palestinians were killed and more than a dozen were wounded, the Palestinian health ministry said.

In a separate incident, a Palestinian stabbed a 28-year-old Israeli man on a bus in the West Bank before being killed by a bystander, the Israeli military said. The Magen David Adom emergency service said the stabbing victim was treated and taken to hospital.

Videos circulating online showed smoke rising from the centre of the Jenin refugee camp as gunfire echoed in the background. Others appeared to show Israeli soldiers and Palestinian gunmen moving through the narrow streets.

The raid came two days after a Palestinian from a village near Jenin shot and killed five people in central Israel, part of a wave of attacks in recent days in which 11 people have died. The Palestinian Health Ministry said a 17-year-old and a 23-year-old were killed and another 15 people were wounded.

The Israeli military said troops came under fire after entering Jenin to arrest suspects. It said one soldier was wounded and taken to hospital for treatment.

The Jenin refugee camp was the scene of one of the deadliest battles of the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising. In April 2002, Israeli forces battled Palestinian militants in the camp, leading to the deaths of 23 Israeli soldiers and more than 50 Palestinians.

In recent years the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the occupied West Bank, has appeared to have little control over Jenin. Israeli forces operating in and around the city and refugee camp often come under fire.

In Tuesday’s attack, a 27-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank village of Yabad, near Jenin, methodically gunned down victims, killing five. On Sunday night, two police officers were shot dead by two Islamic State sympathisers in the city of Hadera. Last week, a combined car-ramming and stabbing attack in the southern city of Beersheba, also by an attacker inspired by IS, killed four. The two attacks claimed by IS were carried out by Arab citizens of Israel.

The US president, Joe Biden, spoke to the Israeli prime minister, Naftali Bennett, on Wednesday. Biden expressed his condolences after the recent attacks and said the US “stands firmly and resolutely with Israel in the face of this terrorist threat and all threats to the state of Israel”.

The recent wave of violence has brought the Palestinian issue back to the fore at a time when Israel is focusing on building alliances with Arab states against Iran. There have been no serious Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in more than a decade, and Bennett is opposed to Palestinian statehood.

Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian leaders have held a flurry of meetings in recent weeks, and Israel has announced a series of goodwill gestures, in an effort to maintain calm before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins this weekend.

They hope to avoid a repeat of last year, when clashes in Jerusalem set off an 11-day Gaza war, but the recent attacks have sent tensions soaring. After a security cabinet meeting late on Wednesday, Israel decided to carry on with plans to ease restrictions on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

Israel captured East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 war, territories the Palestinians want for a future state. Israel annexed East Jerusalem in a move not recognised internationally. In the West Bank, it is steadily building and expanding Jewish settlements, which most of the international community views as illegal.

Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, and the Palestinian militant group Hamas seized power there two years later. Since then, Israel and Hamas have fought four wars and Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade on the territory, which is home to more than 2 million Palestinians.