Israel’s military claimed last week that five armed Palestinians were killed in a firefight in Jericho at daybreak when Israeli troops raided the city, which is meant to be completely under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority for civil and security matters. The bad news came as quite a shock to the Palestinians, as significant Israeli raids or armed groups are unusual in Jericho, a popular tourist destination and PA stronghold.
Two days before, witnesses say dozens of Israeli military vehicles and bulldozers wreaked havoc on Jericho’s Aqabat Jabr refugee camp. In pursuit of a wanted Palestinian who the IDF said had unsuccessfully tried to discharge a weapon at a restaurant near to Jericho, Israeli forces encircled, bombarded, and destroyed a residence.
In addition, Jericho was under IDF siege for a week before to the invasion.
In addition to the five armed Palestinians Israel murdered last week who had formed an improvised brigade and sworn allegiance to Hamas, the resentment sparked by the deadly raid encouraged sympathy for the gunman and his collaborator. Israel, the PA, and even their own neighbors in the typically tranquil village were perplexed by their behavior. However, more young people have promised to continue their path of violent resistance since Israel killed the five armed men.
Sadly, the recent incidents in the occupied West Bank—most notably in Nablus and Jenin—are part of a growing pattern.
Some young people have been resorting to self-defense during the past year out of wrath and despair. But in a pattern that is more lethal, Israel’s use of disproportionate force under the guise of security to quell the violence has encouraged more people to join armed organizations.
This is not to say that Israel shouldn’t react to the unrest, but rather that a particular kind of Israeli reaction—a particularly violent one, for instance, in a location unaccustomed to the presence of Israeli soldiers due to the power-sharing provisions of the Oslo Accords—will fuel the very unrest Israel is attempting to quell.
This goes beyond common sense. It is remarkable and unusual that armed organizations like the Lion’s Den or the Jenin Brigade have recently gained popularity among young Palestinians. These organizations, which are mostly autonomous of the established Palestinian political parties, contain both political dissidents and members of the traditional enemies of the Palestinian parties, such as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs of Fatah.
Therefore, an explanation for the emergence of these new armed groups is necessary. They appear to be the result of a growing perception among Palestinians, particularly young men, of being cornered or facing existential threat, and the belief that none of the established political or even militant groups can defend them.
The Israeli army frequently conducts deadly raids on Palestinian towns, which made 2022 the bloodiest year in the West Bank in twenty years, giving Palestinians a new sense of threat. Additionally, settler violence occurs virtually every day and is frequently committed with impunity.
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