Israel intensifies crackdown on armed resistance in Jenin following October 7 – Mondoweiss
Since March 2022, Israeli forces have regularly raided the Jenin refugee camp, and the camp’s resistance fighters have not let up in the defense of their home. The intensity of these armed confrontations has increased day by day as the fighters target the invading Israeli military forces. This has not changed since the events of October 7.
One of the largest Israeli invasions of the camp was on June 19 this year, when the camp’s resistance factions blew up Israel’s state-of-the-art armored personnel carrier, “the Panther,” causing the Israeli forces to call for backup and air support from an Apache helicopter. After the damage dealt to the Panther, Israeli forces conducted a full-scale invasion of Jenin refugee camp on July 3 over the course of 48 hours. The invasion destroyed the camp’s infrastructure for fear that an IED was lying in wait for them. Regardless, resistance fighters were still able to immobilize several more of the army’s vehicles again. But this experience led Israel to shift its strategy in the camp.
The Israeli army has now formalized this strategy ever since the October 7 offensive — first clearing IEDs with D9 bulldozers and digging up streets, proceeding to destroy roundabouts that were often adorned with posters and plaques commemorating martyrs, and then proceeding to assassinate or arrest wanted resistance fighters holed up in the camp.
An assault on Palestinian society
Jamal Qamba’, a resident of the camp, told Mondoweiss that the army’s operations are vengeful in nature, causing destruction to the camp’s civilian infrastructure to disrupt the daily life of camp residents. Qamba’ added that the digging up of entrances to clinics and schools and the prevention of students from going to school is part of an attempt at psychological terror, in an attempt to push them to leave the camp and sleep outside of it.
“But our will and our morale is strong,” Qamba’ said. “We will not be displaced another time.”
As for the targeting of nationalist symbols in the camp, Qamba’ said that the army’s “destruction of symbols that mean so much to the people of the camp and which reflect their strength, heroism, and desire to return” is meant to erase from people’s memories Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people.
One of the most prominent of such symbols was the camp’s entrance and the “horse roundabout,” (duwwar al-hisan), which was built after the 2002 invasion out of the remains of an ambulance that had carried the martyred doctor, Khalil Suleiman — bombed by an Israeli airstrike as it was transporting the injured from the camp.
“No matter what the occupation does, the people of the camp must remain in their homes,” Qamba’ told Mondoweiss. “Such actions must not affect their morale. And to resistance fighters, I say you must remain vigilant and avoid intersections, which have been proven to be ambush sites through drones that target them with airstrikes.
On November 4, Israeli special forces opened fire on Suleiman Muhammad Esteiti, 31. According to Esteiti’s cousin, Muhammad Esteiti, he was visiting a friend and heading home to the Jabriyyat neighborhood when he came upon the invading force and was summarily gunned down in cold blood. Estiti had no connection to any resistance activity and worked in construction and laying tiles. He was married with two small daughters, one two-and-a-half years old and the other six months old.
“We as a family reject the occupation, and we are with the resistance,” Muhammad Esteiti told Mondoweiss. “We will sacrifice our homes and our children for Palestine because this occupation does not distinguish between civilian and resistance fighter.”
When asked what his message to the world was, Esteiti said, “I have nothing to say.”
“The world can see everything for itself,” he clarified. “Social media has already shown the world all the death and destruction that has befallen the Palestinian people.”
Esteiti added that despite all the destruction in Jenin, they will remain in the camp. “Resistance is a natural extension of the land, and that land is occupied,” he said. “What is happening in Gaza is happening in all of Palestine.”
War of attrition
Abu Baroud, one of the resistance fighters in the Jenin Brigade, told Mondoweiss that these raids increased in intensity a few weeks following October 7 because the Israeli army had been unable to overpower the resistance in Gaza. “So they tried to impose their power on Jenin refugee camp,” Abu Baroud explained. “They did this through their most advanced war machinery, including fighter jets that bombed the Ansar Mosque in the Damaj neighborhood, killing two fighters from the Jenin Brigade and the Qassam Brigades.”
Abu Baroud added that the army’s recent raids have aimed to “win by attrition,” with the aim of wearing down the Jenin Brigade and weakening the resolve of its fighters. “They want to deplete our forces and exhaust our material resources,” Abu Baroud told Mondoweiss. “They want to destroy our morale to the point that we will throw up our arms and surrender.”
Abu Baroud asserted that they have been monitoring the activity of Israeli special forces. This allowed the Jenin Brigade to target the special forces on November 3 before they were able to enter the camp, according to Abu Baroud.
The Jenin Brigade has been active in the Jenin refugee camp for nearly two years now, and its military capabilities have grown steadily during this time, including its ability to manufacture locally-made IEDs. Members of the Brigade have established an organizational structure to keep a state of alert in the camp. “The resistance in Jenin has groups that fight, groups that keep watch, and groups that sleep, which is coordinated between all the resistance factions,” Abu Baroud said. “They are divided into several units, such as reconnaissance units, fighting units, and engineering units.”
“The engineering units make new IEDs which have been used to target and damage D9 military bulldozers,” he continued, referring to a particular incursion on November 3. “What happened was that the army’s forces entered the camp to try and extract the special force after it had failed in its mission and after the bulldozer was immobilized. The operation continued for another eight hours until they were able to repair the bulldozer and leave the camp.”
Abu Baroud also asserted the army has so far preferred to conduct quick operations led by special forces but that the Jenin Brigade has uncovered them each time and engaged them in combat. “The army is forced to remain for hours in order to evacuate these forces,” Abu Baroud said. “And with every invasion, the army’s vehicles are damaged.”
This also explains why the army has increasingly resorted to airstrikes in the camp. “They can’t confront us face to face, so they use their drones,” Abu Baroud maintained.
The army’s raids into Jenin have claimed the lives of 25 Palestinians since October 7, bringing the total number of martyrs in Jenin since the start of the year to 101 — double the number of last year’s Jenin martyrs.
Mohammed Abed is a Palestinian journalist based in Jenin. He works as an editor at a news site and as a reporter in the field.
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