West Bank, no hope on the horizon


Largest Israeli military operation against militias in Jenin in 20 years confirms deteriorating conflict in increasingly unstable area

A man helps a man wounded by Israeli fire in Jenin.MAJDI MOHAMEDDAD

The land and air military operation Israel launched early Sunday morning jenin It seemed that this Tuesday was coming to an end. What will not end is the spiral of violence that returned some scenes of the Second Intifada to the Jenin refugee camp, which has once again become the great stronghold of the Palestinian militias. Within 48 hours of the largest Israeli offensive in 20 years in that northern part of western shore11 Palestinians have been killed, the vast majority by armed forces since Islamic Jihad and Hamas in attacks and fighting, and a hundred were injured. During this time, a dozen Israelis were injured by two Palestinians in an attack and intentional stabbing in Tel Aviv and Bnei Brak.

With no hope on the horizon, the West Bank appears doomed to two scenarios: the current and worrying situation or its deterioration, which could lead to a new intifada in the medium term if it is weakened Palestinian National Authority (ANP) collapses completely. Here are the protagonists of the crisis.

The decision to move from one more raid to launching a larger offensive in time (from several hours to two days), soldiers (from one hundred to one thousand) and resources (use of drones) is first explained in the death of 24 people in Palestinian attacks in the first six months of 2023 and the government of Benjamin Netanyahu. The increase in armed attacks against the Israelis with Yenin as a starting point (planning) and return (cover up) has increased the pressure on the army and the coalition where, moreover, two small ultra-nationalist parties are calling for a large-scale operation aware that Hardly for months have they accused the former executive of “weakness in the face of terrorism”. Its leaders are not the ones who make decisions like the current offensive, but influence, for example, the expansion in the settlements in the West Bank, taking advantage of the fact that Netanyahu needs them to govern in the absence of alternatives with the centre-left.

The deep division in Israel resulting from the controversial judicial reform proposal is seen by its enemies as a sign of weakness. Operations like this week’s also seek to restore the deterrence capacity beyond Jenin’s borders and Netanyahu’s words, which on Tuesday said they will not allow it to “return to being a city-haven for terror” after an offensive that , according to him, stopped many attacks.

The refugee camp, with about 14,000 inhabitants in less than half a square kilometre, is experiencing dramatic hours, causing the flight of 3,000 people. The motivation of those who proclaim themselves “liberators of Palestine”, the (radicalised) religious and economic factor (35% unemployment), the social networks that create heroes with rifles to emulate and the enormous amount of weapons available form an explosive cocktail in Jenin where PA security personnel lost control. So far this year in the West Bank and Israel, more than 140 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, the vast majority of them militants in armed clashes or assailants killed in their attacks or riots, but also civilians.

Unlike Gaza, where Hamas rules with an iron fist and can impose a truce with Israel, Jenin has an alliance of militias under the umbrella of the so-called “Jenin Brigade” and the baton of Islamic Jihad who promise to follow tradition of the camp to lead the “armed resistance”.

ANP extension
Born out of the Oslo accords between Israel and the PLO in the 1990s, the PNA is experiencing its worst moments since the 2005 presidential elections that brought Abu Mazen to power. Until you trample Loop since 2007, when the split between Hamas and Fatahthe veteran raises faces a frustrating situation in the West Bank. Internally, the PA has lost much legitimacy, as many Palestinians denounce it as a corrupt and authoritarian entity. Despite announcing the termination of contacts and security cooperation with Israel on Monday, Abu Mazen is still seen by many as “a collaborator with the occupier.” Moreover, since 2014 he has had to deal with the paralysis of negotiations leading to the Palestinian state, with the far-right Israeli government promoting construction in the settlements despite US opposition, and with the chaos reigning in Jenin.

Increasingly publicized meetings with the leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad confirm the support of Tehran, which in recent months has gone beyond the ideological and economic aspect. In the face of Israeli air strikes against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and its militias in Syria and arms convoys to Hizbul in Lebanon in recent years, Iran has decided to respond in Israel’s backyard, the West Bank. So, it not only encourages Palestinians to attack their enemy, but plans, finances and helps with the weapons it introduces into the West Bank. The strategy is a common front against Israel from the north (Syria and Hizbul in Lebanon), the south (Gaza) and the center (West Bank).

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