Israel’s military on Wednesday ended its two-day siege of the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, with residents emerging from their homes or returning from nearby shelters to find widespread destruction in their community.
During their most intense military operation in the West Bank in nearly two decades, Israeli forces killed 12 Palestinians, with one Israeli soldier also left dead. The offensive was meant to crack down on Palestinian militants that Israel blames for the recent killings of Israelis, while seizing and destroying weapons.
Israeli troops launched airstrikes and bulldozed through narrow streets and alleys, leveling some homes.
Faraj al-Jundi, an ambulance worker, said the Israeli military ordered his family to evacuate before destroying his and other homes in his neighborhood in an airstrike.
"They targeted the house, the windows, the doors," he said as he returned home on Wednesday. "We have a destroyed house. We have broken windows. It's all gone. This aggression is really awful."
Piles of broken asphalt, stones and rocks were left lying alongside destroyed roadways. Cars were smashed and scorched, and shops were closed as people gathered in the streets and offered food to one another. Workers fixed broken power lines, slowly restoring electricity for residents, while running water remained disrupted.
Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kaila said, “Since the start of their attack, the occupation forces attacked the Jenin Governmental Hospital, seriously wounding citizens inside. The occupation forces also fired at Al-Amal Hospital more than once, injuring a citizen inside.”
Al-Kaila also said Israeli troops stormed the grounds of Ibn Sina Specialist Hospital with armored vehicles.
“They also deliberately obstructed ambulances and their crew in Jenin and prevented them from reaching the wounded,” she added. “The whole world witnessed the occupation forces shooting at ambulances and crews and preventing them from treating the wounded.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Israel had wrapped up a "comprehensive action against the terrorist enclave" and that similar missions would take place in the future.
"Jenin was to be a safe haven. It no longer is a safe haven," he said. "This is just the first step. It's by no means the last action that we will take."
In all, 1,000 Israeli troops were involved in the attack. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said the Jewish state’s forces “arrived at dozens of places where the terrorists from different organizations in Jenin had set up a factory of terror production. Charges, ammunition, various types of weapons — in fact, from this place they sowed death throughout the West Bank.”
The Israeli military said it had detained 120 suspected gunmen.
The Palestinians, neighboring Jordan and Egypt and the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation condemned the violence.
The U.N. Security Council is set to hold a closed-door meeting on the Jenin assault on Friday, per a request from the United Arab Emirates.
As the siege in Jenin ended, Israel said it carried out airstrikes in the Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire, targeting a weapons production site used by Hamas militants.
The Israeli military said earlier it shot down all five rockets fired toward Israeli territory.
Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.