The United States has condemned Israel’s military operation in the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, which killed 12 Palestinians and injured about 100 others, as a “disproportionate and indiscriminate” use of force.
In a statement on Wednesday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the US was “deeply concerned” by the reports of civilian casualties and extensive damage to infrastructure in the camp, which is home to more than 15,000 Palestinians.
“We urge Israel to respect the rights and dignity of the Palestinian people and to refrain from actions that escalate tensions and undermine the prospects for peace,” Price said.
According to Israeli media, the operation was the largest in the West Bank since 2002, when Israel launched a massive offensive in response to a wave of suicide bombings.
The Israeli military said it used drones, helicopters and ground troops to raid the camp, which it described as a “hotbed of terrorism”.
It said it killed eight members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) movement and two members of Hamas, both of which are considered terrorist groups by Israel and the US.
It also said it arrested several suspects and seized weapons and explosives.
However, Palestinian officials and witnesses said many of the victims were civilians who were caught in the crossfire or targeted by Israeli snipers.
One of The Biggest Military Operations
They also said the operation caused widespread destruction to homes, roads, water pipes and electricity networks, leaving many residents without basic services.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), which runs schools and clinics in the camp, said it was “shocked” by the level of violence and damage.
“The humanitarian impact of such military operations on refugees is devastating and lasting,” UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said in a statement.
He called for an immediate cessation of hostilities and respect for international humanitarian law.
The raid on Jenin came amid heightened tensions in the West Bank following a series of attacks by Palestinians against Israeli settlers and soldiers in recent weeks.
Israel has blamed the attacks on incitement by Palestinian leaders and media, while Palestinians have cited frustration over Israel’s continued occupation, settlement expansion and repression of their rights.
The violence has also strained relations between Israel and the US, which have been trying to revive the stalled peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
President Joe Biden has expressed support for a two-state solution and urged both sides to take steps to reduce tensions and restore trust.
However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected any concessions to the Palestinians and praised US backing for Israel’s right to defend itself.