Israeli soldiers take part in a military operation in Jenin in West Bank on April 12, 2022. Image Credit: AFP

Jenin, Palestinian Territories: Two Palestinians were killed on Thursday when Israeli forces launched fresh raids into the West Bank flashpoint district of Jenin, a week after a gunman from there went on a deadly shooting spree in Tel Aviv.

Israel has poured additional forces into the West Bank and is reinforcing its wall and fence barrier with the territory after four deadly attacks have claimed 14 lives in Israel, most of them civilians, in the past three weeks.

“Two youths died of injuries sustained in an Israeli attack in the Jenin district,” the Palestinian health ministry said, while medical sources on the ground also reported four people wounded.

The Israeli army said that on its sixth straight day of “counterterrorism activities” it came under attack from a violent crowd in Kafr Dan, a village northwest of Jenin.

“Dozens of Palestinians violently attacked the soldiers, shot at the forces and hurled IEDs (improvised explosive devices) at them, endangering their safety,” the army said. “The soldiers responded with live ammunition.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has given Israeli forces a free hand to “defeat terror” in the territory which Israel has occupied since the 1967 Six Day War, warning that there would “not be limits” for this war.

Palestinian security sources named the two men killed on Thursday as Mustafa Abu Al Rub and Chas Kamamji — a brother of Islamic Jihad member Ayham Kamamji, who was among six prisoners who escaped Israel’s high-security Gilboa prison through a tunnel in September before being recaptured.

A total of 20 Palestinians have been killed in the latest wave of violence since March 22, including assailants in the anti-Israel attacks, according to an AFP tally.

On Wednesday, Mohammad Assaf, a 34-year-old lawyer, and two Palestinian youths lost their lives in different incidents in the West Bank.

Islamic Jihad, the main armed Islamist movement after Hamas, hailed those two young Palestinians, who were to be buried Thursday, as “heroic martyrs”.

‘Intensity will increase’

Israel’s main focus has been the northern district of Jenin and the town’s refugee camp, a bastion of militant groups including the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, affiliated with the Fatah movement, and the Islamists of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Jenin has seen intense battles before. In April 2002, bloody urban warfare with Israeli forces left dozens dead and much of the camp reduced to rubble.

Israel is seeking to arrest relatives and supporters of the 28-year-old Tel Aviv shooter, Raad Hazem, who was killed after his gun rampage, and who has been hailed as a “hero” in his hometown of Jenin.

Israel’s Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev, speaking about the Jenin raids, said “the intensity will only increase”, in comments to border police on Wednesday after touring part of the security barrier.

“What is currently happening in Jenin, specifically the refugee camp, is remarkable,” he said, arguing about militant activity that if “you don’t stop it there, it spreads all over the place”.

Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh on Wednesday charged that Israeli soldiers in the operations “murder for the sake of murder ... without the slightest regard for international law”.

The West Bank cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem declared general strikes Thursday in protest at the ongoing military operations.

The rise in violence comes during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and before the Jewish festival of Passover and Christian Easter.

Last year during Ramadan, tensions in Jerusalem flared into 11 days of war between Israel and the Hamas militant group ruling the Gaza Strip.