Middle East conflict: Israel ends operation in Jenin - air strikes on Gaza

After the withdrawal of Israeli soldiers from Jenin in the West Bank, many residents there are returning to their homes.

Middle East conflict: Israel ends operation in Jenin - air strikes on Gaza

After the withdrawal of Israeli soldiers from Jenin in the West Bank, many residents there are returning to their homes. The civil defense is meanwhile looking for explosive remnants of the operation and checking houses and roads for damage, the Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.

Israel's army has now ended its deployment in Jenin. The military had returned to its "routine activities" in the West Bank, the army said on request.

During the night, while the troops were withdrawing, there were skirmishes with armed residents of Jenin.

A second trouble spot has emerged in the border area of ​​the Gaza Strip. For the first time since May, rockets flew from the sealed-off coastal zone towards Israel, which the armed forces said were intercepted and responded to with airstrikes. The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians had previously been fueled by an attack on civilians in Tel Aviv.

The Israeli army moved into the city of Jenin on Monday after preparatory airstrikes with around a thousand soldiers. There they exchanged violent fire with armed Palestinians. According to the army, the military operation - one of the largest in the West Bank for decades - aimed to smash "terrorist infrastructure" in the stronghold of militant Islamists. At least 12 Palestinians were killed and more than 100 injured. According to the military, the dead were believed to be armed fighters. In addition, command centers, weapons depots and weapons production facilities were destroyed and 30 suspects arrested.

Late on Tuesday evening, the army then began withdrawing from the densely populated area, where around 50,000 people live - a third of them in a refugee camp which the army, like all of Jenin, regards as a safe haven for Palestinian "terrorists". According to Palestinian reports, when the first soldiers were already leaving the city, there were heavy firefights between the army and armed residents and several explosions. According to the military, one soldier was killed in action.

Jenin is considered the nucleus for militant Palestinians

A few hours later sirens wailed in Israel: missile alert. Five missiles were fired from the Gaza Strip at the Israeli border area, the military said during the night. But the anti-aircraft defense was able to intercept all the missiles. Multiple explosions were heard in the area, believed to have been triggered by the Iron Dome missile defense system. No one initially claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Shortly thereafter, Israeli fighter jets flew airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, during which, according to the army, an underground weapons production facility and a Hamas rocket factory were hit. The extremist Palestinian organization has ruled the Gaza Strip since taking power by force in 2007 and denies the State of Israel the right to exist. More than two million people live in very poor conditions in the strictly sealed off coastal area.

Like the Gaza Strip, the region around Jenin and the refugee camp there with around 17,000 inhabitants have long been regarded as a breeding ground for militant Palestinians. In addition to Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other loose extremist groups have also gained influence there. They are largely funded by Iran, Israel's nemesis.

Attack victim loses unborn child

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicated on Tuesday afternoon that the mission in Jenin would end soon. At the same time, however, he made it clear that the action was "not a one-off process, we will continue as long as necessary". Defense Minister Joav Galant said Jenin had become a hotbed for terrorism over the past two years - that's over now. In recent years, several residents of the city have carried out attacks on Israelis.

A Palestinian attacker injured at least seven people in an attack in Tel Aviv on Tuesday. He crashed into a group of pedestrians at a bus stop and then stabbed them. According to Israeli media reports, one of the injured lost her unborn child after the attack. After the attack, Hamas spoke of an "initial reaction" to what was happening in Jenin. Accordingly, the attacker was a member of the Palestinian organization.

Security situation remains tense

Experts doubt that the latest military operation in the West Bank can contribute to a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - and there are fears that the opposite may even be the case. The operation can help to thwart attacks and eliminate individual fighters, said Tamir Hajman, head of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. "But only political action will ensure long-term stability."

The security situation in Israel and in the West Bank, with its approximately three million inhabitants, has been tense for a long time. The settlement policy of Netanyahu's government, which the United Nations has criticized as violating international law and in which Jewish nationalists and right-wing extremists also sit at the cabinet table, has deepened the rifts further. Since the beginning of the year, two dozen people have died in attacks by Palestinians. During the same period, more than 150 Palestinians were shot dead during violent clashes, Israeli military operations, or after their own attacks.

Israel conquered the West Bank and East Jerusalem during the 1967 Six Day War. The Palestinians claim both areas as part of their own state. However, a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict that has been going on for decades seems a long way off. There have been no serious negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians since 2014.