By: Nada Tammous
On the morning of July 3, 2023, Israeli Occupation Forces invaded the Jenin camp, north of the occupied West Bank. The scene and ambiance in the camp resembled Gaza during times of aggression, though it had some distinctions from Gaza. That morning, hundreds of troops, bulldozers, tanks, and special forces entered Jenin, supported by drones and warplanes – tools not used in the West Bank for over two decades. This attack marked the most destructive in Jenin since 20 years prior. As the raid commenced, Palestinian security forces were instructed to evacuate the city before the Israeli forces stormed in.
The invasion began with bombings of a residential apartment believed to be a hideout for Palestinian resistance and the Jenin Camp arena, a location for celebrations and community gatherings. However, the scene resembled a war zone. Occupation bulldozers dug up streets, creating mounds of dirt and debris. Many cars were crushed or wholly destroyed. The camp’s infrastructure, including the main water, sewage, and electricity systems, was targeted. Six electricity transformers were detonated, and maintenance crews were barred from repairs. Civilian facilities, such as mosques, the Jenin church, and three hospitals – Ibn Sina Specialist Hospital, Al Amal Hospital, and the Government Hospital – were attacked. Medical staff faced threats, complicating their rescue efforts.
Journalists were hindered from covering the events, and thousands of Palestinians were forced to evacuate their homes under threats of bombings. The invasion led to the destruction of approximately 800 homes, either partially or entirely. Twelve Palestinians were killed, around 300, primarily civilians, were detained, and 120 sustained injuries, with 20 in critical condition. Resistance factions killed one Israeli soldier during an armed clash and wounded several others, damaging various military equipment and shooting down five drones.
Did Israel meet its objectives, or did the resistance fracture Israel’s efforts?
By Wednesday morning, the Israeli army declared the conclusion of its operation in Jenin, claiming to have met their objectives. However, some authorities interpreted the Israeli army’s withdrawal two days post-operation as an Israeli defeat and a Palestinian victory.
The Israeli army had multiple goals: to suppress Jenin camp as a hub of resistance, eradicate the primary center of resistance in the occupied West Bank, dismantle resistance infrastructure, and either detain or kill as many Palestinians as feasible. They aimed to showcase the potential consequences to Jenin’s residents for their support of resistance, evident in the destruction of infrastructure. Although 300 Palestinians were detained, the anticipated capture of significant resistance fighters fell short.
Only 30 detainees were active resistors, and none were primary leaders. ‘Haaretz’ reported that the occupation’s efforts to seize the expected amount of weapons used by the Resistance fell short.
Jenin Massacre 2002
The recent actions invoked memories of the 2002 events. The Jenin massacre on April 3, 2002, saw Israeli forces besiege and invade the Jenin camp. Termed “Protective Wall” by Israel, this operation aimed to quash resistance within a 15-day siege. Accusations of indiscriminate killings, human shield usage, excessive force, arbitrary detentions, and denial of medical aid surrounded the operation, instigated under former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s directive. Residential facilities and public infrastructure faced rampant destruction. In total, 455 homes were completely demolished, and 800 faced partial destruction. The camp lost over 500 residents, predominantly non-combatants, and hundreds were detained. The event deeply affected global public opinion.
Established in 1953, Jenin Camp lies west of Jenin in the northern West Bank, covering 473 dunums. It’s the second-largest camp in the West Bank after Balata, housing over 11,000 residents, primarily from Haifa’s Carmel area and the 1948 occupied Jenin villages. Located adjacent to the Government Hospital, the camp also houses a graveyard, prompting defiant local sentiments against adversaries. The camp offers five schools, a health center, the “Social Youth Centre”, several mosques, and a women’s library. However, it struggles with water scarcity and high youth unemployment.
Emerging in 2022 in Nablus and Jenin, the “Lions’ Den” group consists of uniformed young resistors. Distinguished by their black attire and symbolic red cloth on gun nozzles, they emphasize unity in their resistance. Many associate this group with the “Jenin Brigade”, especially in Jenin camp. Their goal is unified resistance and reigniting the spirit of opposition among Palestinians.
“Old People Die and Young People Forget”
David Ben-Gurion’s remark remains etched in Palestinian memory. Although the events of 2002 might not be fresh in every resident’s mind, the ongoing struggles against occupation spanning over 70 years are. Fighters from the Jenin battalion draw inspiration from past heroes and events. The new generation, closely related to the martyrs of the 2002 Battle, continues the resistance, rejecting the myth of an “unstoppable army”.
“This is the ‘undefeatable army’, and this is Jenin.”