Shuttered shops during a Palestinian general strike in Hebron city in the West Bank on July 4, 2023, in protest against an ongoing Israeli military operation in Jenin city. Image Credit: AFP

JENIN, West Bank: Israeli troops pressed ahead with their hunt for Palestinian militants and weapons in a West Bank refugee camp on Tuesday, after military bulldozers tore through alleys and thousands of residents fled to safety. The two-day Palestinian death toll rose to 10.

The large-scale raid of the Jenin camp, which began on Monday, is one of the most intense military operation in the West Bank in nearly two decades. It bore hallmarks of Israeli military tactics during the second Palestinian uprising in the early 2000s and came as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces growing pressure from his ultranationalist political allies for a tough response to recent attacks on Israeli settlers, including a shooting last month that killed four people.

On Tuesday morning, rubble littered the streets of Jenin and there were reports of damage to shops. Columns of black smoke periodically punctuated the skyline over the camp in the northern West Bank city, long a Palestinian militant stronghold.

Several thousand Palestinians fled after the start of the incursion, seeking safety in shelters and with family outside the camp, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent. Residents said there was no water and electricity in the camp.

Across the West Bank, Palestinians observed a general strike to protest the Israeli raid.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Health Ministry said Tuesday that the two-day death toll rose to 10, with two more deaths reported overnight. The Israeli military has claimed all were militants, but did not provide details.

120 arrested

A spokesman for the Israeli military, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said Monday that Israel had launched the operation because some 50 attacks over the past year had emanated from Jenin.

The Jenin camp and an adjacent town of the same name have been a flashpoint since Israeli-Palestinian violence began escalating in spring 2022. It was also a hotbed of Palestinian military activity in the second Palestinian uprising in the early 2000s.

On Tuesday, hundreds of Israeli troops continued to operate in the camp, seizing weapons and explosives and destroying tunnels and command posts, the army said.

Israeli media reported that the army had arrested at least 120 suspected Palestinian militants since Monday.

The Palestinian self-rule government in the West Bank and three Arab countries with normalised ties with Israel – Jordan, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates – condemned Israel’s incursion, as did the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

More than 140 Palestinians have been killed this year in the West Bank, part of more than a yearlong spike in violence that has seen some of the worst bloodshed in the area in nearly two decades. Palestinian attacks targeting Israelis have killed at least 26 people.

Israel says the raids are meant to crack down on Palestinians militants and thwart attacks. The Palestinians say such violence is inevitable in the absence of any political process with Israel and increased West Bank settlement construction and violence by extremist settlers.

Israel says most of those killed have been militants, but stone-throwing youths protesting the incursions and people uninvolved in confrontations have also died.

Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians seek those territories for their hoped-for independent state.