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Major Israeli military operation kills eight in West Bank

JENIN, PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES (AFP) – Israel began a large-scale military raid including drone strikes and hundreds of troops in the northern occupied West Bank, killing eight Palestinians in what the army labelled an “extensive counterterrorism effort” yesterday.

The operation under the hard-right government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the biggest of its kind in years, with bulldozers, armoured vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles.

An AFP correspondent in Jenin said troops were inside the camp and also around the city. There were gun battles, explosions, and Palestinians threw rocks at Israeli troops, the correspondent reported.

Israel had already stepped up operations in the northern West Bank, home to Jenin city and its adjacent refugee camp, which is a stronghold of Palestinian armed groups.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said that in yesterday’s operation eight people were killed – exceeding the toll of seven from an Israeli army raid in Jenin refugee camp two weeks ago which saw rare use of helicopter missile fire.

Tyres burn during an Israeli military raid in the militant stronghold of Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank. PHOTO: AP

Fifty others were injured including 10 who were in serious condition, the ministry said.

“There is bombing from the air and an invasion from the ground,” director of the Palestinian Red Crescent in Jenin Mahmoud al-Saadi told AFP.

“Several houses and sites have been bombed… smoke is rising from everywhere.”

The Israeli army said its forces had struck a “joint operations center”, which served as a command post for the “Jenin Brigade”, a local militant group.

The area is nominally under the control of president Mahmud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority, which has partial administrative control in the West Bank.

The army said it targeted an “observation and reconnaissance” site, as well as a weapons storage facility and a hideout for those alleged to have carried out attacks on Israeli targets in recent months.

“We are striking the terrorism hub (of Jenin) with great strength,” Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen told reporters in Jerusalem.

Violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has worsened since early last year, including under the latest administration of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu which took power in December, a coalition between his Likud party and extreme-right and ultra-Orthodox Jewish allies.