Israeli military strikes West Bank stronghold


Israel used drones to strike targets in a militant stronghold in the occupied West Bank early on Monday and deployed hundreds of troops in the area, in an incursion that resembled the wide-scale military operations carried out during the second Palestinian uprising two decades ago.
Palestinian health officials said at least eight Palestinians were killed and dozens wounded. Troops remained inside the Jenin refugee camp at midday on Monday, pushing ahead with the largest operation in the area during more than a year of fighting. It came at a time of growing domestic pressure for a tough response to a series of attacks on Israeli settlers, including a shooting attack last month that killed four Israelis.
Black smoke rose from the crowded streets of the camp as the military advanced, while drones buzzed overhead. Residents reported electricity cutoffs and military bulldozers damaging buildings in the path of Israeli forces, reminiscent of the previous uprising. Both Palestinians and neighbouring Jordan condemned the violence. Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant huddled with top military commanders and said the operation was “proceeding as planned.” He said Israel had dealt “a tough blow” to local militant groups but gave no indication when the incursion would end. Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, an army spokesman, said the goal of the operation was to destroy and confiscate weapons. “We’re not planning to hold ground,” he said. “We’re acting against specific targets.”
He said that a brigade-size force — roughly 2,000 soldiers — was taking part in the operation, and that military drones had carried out a series of strikes to clear the way for the ground forces. Although Israel has carried out isolated airstrikes in the West Bank in recent weeks, Hecht said Monday’s series of strikes was an escalation unseen since 2006 — the end of the Palestinian uprising. Smoke billowed from within the crowded camp, with mosque minarets nearby. Ambulances raced toward a hospital where the wounded were brought in on stretchers. Lynn Hastings, the UN humanitarian coordinator in the Palestinian areas, said on Twitter that she was “alarmed by scale of Israeli forces operation”, noting the airstrikes in a densely populated refugee camp. She said the UN was mobilizing humanitarian aid.
According to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa, the military blocked roads within the camp, took over houses and buildings and set up snipers on rooftops. The tactics signaled the operation could drag on for some time.