Israeli soldiers had what the military called a “massive” shootout with Palestinian militants in the city of Jenin on Monday, a conflict that escalated with the use of a roadside bomb and finally Israeli gunships.
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officials say they began a series of arrest raids late Sunday night targeting Hamas and Palestinian Jihad militants. They came under heavy fire during the operation and seven soldiers received light-to-moderate injuries. Later in the morning, a Palestinian improvised explosive device (IED) exploded next to five Israeli military vehicles, disabling all of them. What followed was a full-scale Israeli operation to extract soldiers from the disabled vehicles.
“IDF troops entered Jenin in order to apprehend terrorists. This is yet another operation among many, that have been conducted by the IDF, ISA and Border Police, during which our troops showed courage and professionalism in the face of heavy fire,” Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant said in a statement. “In fighting terrorism, we may not compromise. We will continue to fight terrorism proactively. We will use all the tools at our disposal and strike terrorists wherever they may be. Terrorists will not find a safe haven – not in Jenin, not in Nablus and not in Gaza.”
Israel deployed two Cobra helicopter gunships during the hours-long rescue operation. It was the first time an attack helicopter had opened fire in the region since the early 2000’s.
Israeli forces have yet to clarify their casualties since the initial report of seven wounded soldiers. Meanwhile, Palestinian officials say four people were killed, and 45 others were wounded in the fighting, with five of those suffering serious injuries.
While skirmishes between Israeli and Palestinian forces have been common throughout the year, Monday’s battle was by far the most significant.
Israel has conducted a campaign of arrest raids in the West Bank throughout this year, several of which have erupted into gunfights. The use of a large IED by Palestinian militants, however, is extremely uncommon.
The IDF conducted another arrest raid in Jenin in late January that saw a moderate exchange of gunfire. Israeli forces confirmed they had killed “at least” six militants in the West Bank operation, but Palestinian authorities put the death toll at nine. Israeli troops had entered the city of Jenin for a counter-terrorism operation and soon came under fire from militants. The troops killed three of the attackers before surrounding the building they fled to and killing three more.
Fighting in the West Bank has resulted in roughly 124 Palestinian deaths in 2023, while Palestinian attacks in Israel have killed at least 20 people.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.