West Bank mosque desecrated during Israeli raids
RAMALLAH: Israeli troops have killed 12 Palestinians in three days of raids in Jenin in the occupied West Bank, including one youth shot dead at a hospital, Palestinian officials and international health charities said on Thursday.
Palestinians see the West Bank as central to a future independent state. Allies of Israel backing its war against Hamas militants in the separate Palestinian enclave of Gaza have urged restraint in the West Bank, including action to punish Israeli settlers accused of armed attacks on Palestinians.
The operation inside Jenin was met with anger by the Palestinian government, which described a “dangerous escalation” and criticised the desecration of a mosque by some Israeli troops. Israel’s army said it would discipline the soldiers.
Soldiers operating inside the Khalil Suleiman hospital compound just outside Jenin’s built-up refugee camp killed an unarmed teenager there, according to medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF). The 17-year-old was shot in the chest, the Palestinian health ministry said.
The Israeli military, which says it has been stepping up operations against Palestinian militant groups in the West Bank, did not respond to a request for comment about the shooting. At least 275 Palestinians have been killed there over the past two months since the October 7 Hamas attack from Gaza into southern Israel that killed 1,200 people, according to Israeli tallies.
Israel was not allowing ambulances to enter the camp to transport seriously ill patients, Mahmoud Al-Saadi, director of the Palestinian Red Crescent in the northern West Bank city, told Reuters.
“The army did not allow us to enter,” despite attempts to coordinate with the International Red Cross and the UN Palestinian relief agency, he said, adding soldiers were also stationed outside the hospital.
Witnesses in Jenin described gunmen exchanging fire with the soldiers and detonating homemade explosive devices. Army bulldozers damaged streets and water pipes, residents said.
A military statement said soldiers dismantled bomb laboratories, underground tunnel shafts and explosive devices during searches in a counter-terrorism operation that began on December 12 in Jenin, a stronghold of Palestinian militants.
Four soldiers were slightly injured by controlled explosions and gunfire from Israel’s own forces, the statement said.
Asked about the deaths and reports of soldiers stopping ambulances reaching the sick, the military confirmed “ongoing counterterrorism activity” in Jenin and said more details would be provided after the activity ended.
Ambulances leaving the hospital with discharged patients were also stopped by soldiers, MSF said in a post on X.
“They ordered the paramedics and ambulance drivers to get out, stripped them of their clothes, and forced them to kneel in the street, while the patients were left inside the ambulances.
“Today we witness how they shoot a person inside the hospital complex and take his life,” MSF said.
Images circulating on social media and verified by Reuters showed soldiers inside a mosque in Jenin using a microphone to read a Jewish prayer in the style of a Islamic call to prayer.
The Palestinian foreign ministry condemned what it said was a mockery of the religious sanctum. Asked about the events, the Israeli army told reporters the soldiers were immediately removed from operational activity.
“The behaviour of the soldiers in the videos is serious and stands in complete opposition to the values of the IDF. The soldiers will be disciplined accordingly,” the military said.
‘LEAVE THE WEST BANK’
Alaa Al Sadi, who lives in the Jenin camp, said soldiers who came to his home searching for guns smashed his television before taking him blindfolded into detention at an army compound outside the city for about 14 hours, along with hundreds of other people.
The soldiers found no guns but demolished his family home and accused him of being a member of Hamas, telling him he should leave the West Bank and move to Lebanon or Syria, Al Sadi, 44, said in an interview. He denied any links to the Gaza-based Islamist militant group.
The Israeli military did not respond to a request for comment about Alaa Al Sadi’s account.
The majority of the people taken into detention earlier in the raid have since been released, the Palestinian Prisoner’s Club, an advocacy group, said in a statement.
Deadly bloodshed had been worsening in the West Bank even before the war in the Gaza Strip erupted.
In recent years Israel has greatly expanded Jewish settlements in the West Bank that most countries deem illegal. Israel disputes this, citing historical and biblical ties to the land.