Five Palestinians were killed as heavy clashes broke out between gunmen and Israeli troops in the city of Jenin on Monday morning. An Israeli helicopter gunship carried out rare strikes, the first in the West Bank in some two decades, in order for eight wounded soldiers to be evacuated from the battle zone after a vehicle was hit by an explosive device, the military and local officials said.
In a brief joint statement, the Israel Defense Forces and Border Police said forces entered the northern West Bank city in the early morning hours to detain two wanted Palestinians.
“During the activity, a massive exchange of fire took place between the forces and armed gunmen in the area. Large numbers of explosive devices were hurled at the forces. The forces responded with live fire,” the statement said, adding that several suspects were hit.
The Palestinian Authority health ministry reported that five people were killed and at least 91 people were wounded amid clashes with Israeli troops in the city.
The ministry identified those killed as Khaled Asasa, 21, Qassam Abu Sariya, 29, Qais Jabareen, 21, Ahmed Daraghmeh, 19, and 15-year-old Ahmed Saqr, and said at least 23 others were seriously wounded in the shootout, including a young girl.
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad later claimed Abu Sariya, Jabareen, and Daraghmeh as members of local wings of the terror group in Jenin and the nearby town of Tubas.
The local Islamic Jihad wing, known as the Jenin Battalion, claimed its members had detonated explosive devices near IDF vehicles and then targeted them with gunfire.
The IDF said that “as the security forces exited the city, a military vehicle was hit by an explosive device, damaging the vehicle.”
Footage shared by Palestinian media outlets showed the roadside bomb being detonated next to Israeli army vehicles that were engulfed in smoke. Another clip showed the IDF vehicles coming under fire. Gunfire and explosions could be heard across the city in other clips shared online.
Eight soldiers and Border Police officers were wounded in the roadside blast and gunfire, the IDF and police said in a separate joint statement.
According to the statement, three IDF soldiers were injured — two moderately and one lightly — and five Border Police officers were injured, two moderately and three lightly.
The wounded soldiers were airlifted to hospitals in Israel for treatment and their families have been notified, the IDF said.
The Rambam hospital in Haifa said five of the troops had been admitted there and two were currently undergoing surgery. None of them had life-threatening injuries. Another two soldiers were taken to Sheba hospital outside Tel Aviv. The eighth soldier, suffering minor shrapnel wounds, was taken to another hospital.
An Apache helicopter then launched missiles at an area where gunmen were identified, the IDF said, in order to allow the wounded troops to be evacuated from the area to hospitals in Israel.
Clips published by Palestinian media showed the helicopter launching missiles at a target and deploying flares over the city, apparently over fears that Palestinians in Jenin could have shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles.
Footage showed an area close to a building being struck several times by the helicopter missiles, in what marked the first airstrike in the West Bank in some two decades. In the early 2000s, during the Second Intifada, the IDF used attack helicopters in the West Bank, but only in special circumstances and not as a matter of routine.
The military later said Palestinian gunmen had opened fire at the Apache helicopter, causing minor damage to the tail rotor. The impacts did not prevent the chopper from carrying out the strikes.
The IDF said troops continued to operate in Jenin for several hours, in order to remove a number of heavily damaged vehicles.
IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said forces came under fire as they towed the damaged vehicles away. “We have aerial and observation capabilities in these areas and the scene is being managed and is under control,” he said.
Hagari added that the incidents in Jenin would be investigated, and “we will draw lessons.”
Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians have been elevated for the past year, with the military carrying out near-nightly raids in the West Bank, amid a series of deadly Palestinian terror attacks.
Israel has carried out repeated raids in Jenin to apprehend terror suspects. Monday’s raid was the deadliest since January, when nine Palestinians were killed and several wounded during a gun battle between the IDF and gunmen.
Since the beginning of the year, Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank have killed 20 people and left several more seriously hurt.
According to a tally by The Times of Israel, 122 West Bank Palestinians have been killed during that span, most of them during clashes with security forces, but some were uninvolved civilians and others were killed under unclear circumstances.
Source : Times of Israel