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Israeli soldier killed in clashes with Palestinian militants in Jenin; IDF says operation is over

IDF announces all forces are out of Jenin refugee camp and operation has ended, and says it intercepted five rockets fired from Gaza Strip into Israel; one Palestinian killed in Israeli airstrike

This article originally appeared on Haaretz, and was reprinted here with permission. Sign up here to get Haaretz’s free Daily Brief newsletter delivered to your inbox.

An IDF spokesperson announced on Wednesday that the operation in the Jenin refugee camp has now ended, and all Israeli forces have left the camp. As Israel was withdrawing its forces from the camp on Tuesday, an Israeli soldier was killed during clashes with Palestinian militants. Rockets were also fired from Gaza during the withdrawal.

According to the Israeli military on Wednesday, Sergeant-Major David Yehuda Yitzhak, a non-commissioned officer in combat service, was killed by live fire in the Jenin refugee camp. The army is investigating the circumstances of his death, as contact with forces inside the camp was cut off during the end of the operation.

Hours after Israeli forces began withdrawing from Jenin, five rockets were fired from Gaza at communities in southern Israel, including the city of Sderot.

The IDF said that all the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, adding that shrapnel from one of them hit a house in Sderot, causing damage but no injuries.

In response, Israel targeted what it said was an underground Hamas manufacturing facility for weapons, and another for rockets.

“This strike significantly impeded the Hamas terrorist organization’s intensification and armament efforts,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said in a statement. “The IDF holds the Hamas terrorist organization responsible for all terror activities emanating from the Gaza Strip and will face the consequences of security violations against Israel,” it added.

Speaking at the conclusion of the operation, IDF Spokesperson Daniel Hagari said that while the operation has ended, “our fight against terrorism has not ended,” adding, however, that “our situation is better now that the camp has lost capability.”

Earlier, one Palestinian was killed in an Israeli airstrike on a cemetery in Jenin, marking the 12th casualty of the operation in the city, the Palestinian Health Ministry reported. Following the army’s withdrawal, Palestinians were warned via internal communication networks not to believe reports in Israeli media that were meant to lure militants out of hiding.

According to an IDF spokesperson, the militants “posed a threat” to the troops leaving the refugee camp, and the fact that they used a cemetery is “yet another proof of terrorists exploiting civilian sites.”

Earlier, the Palestinian Health Ministry reported that three Palestinians were injured in gunfire exchanges with the IDF near a hospital.

Also on Tuesday night, Israeli Border Police and local police forces began prepping for violent responses in east Jerusalem. They had already received reports of Palestinians throwing stones at private buses that in the a-Tur neighborhood in Jerusalem that resulted in light injuries to passengers.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday evening that the Israel Defense Forces’ operation in Jenin is not a one-off event and noted that “at this moment we are completing the mission.”

In a visit he made to the Salem checkpoint near the West Bank city, Netanyahu said that “we will continue as long as necessary to stamp out terrorism, we will not allow Jenin to become a sanctuary for terrorism.”

Netanyahu also spoke about the ramming and stabbing attack that occurred in northern Tel Aviv earlier on Tuesday: “Whoever thinks that such an attack will deter us from continuing our fight against terrorism is wrong. They simply don’t know the spirit of Israel, don’t know our government, our citizens and our soldiers.”

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who was also present at the visit, said: “In the last two years, Jenin has become a terror factory – today, that’s over.” He detailed the achievements of the operation and said that “in the last two days we interrupted the weapon production process, seized thousands of bombs, some small and some large, and destroyed dozens of factories, workshops and laboratories.”

“At the end of the day, it will take a little more time until we reach a situation where, as a result of having engaged militarily in Jenin in recent days, we will be able to move anywhere, in the refugee camp or anywhere else, with a team of soldiers,” Gallant said. “This is the principle – freedom of movement.”

“What we did today or yesterday in Jenin, and what we did two months ago in Gaza based on the joint advice of the prime minister, myself and the security establishment,” said the Defense Minister, “we will know how to duplicate anywhere, wherever necessary. Anyone who tries to harm Israeli citizens will pay a price. We will follow him to his house, to his bedroom, arrest him and bring him to justice.”

In the last day, thousands of residents fled the camp. IDF spokesperson Brig. Gen. Daniel Hagari said Tuesday morning that Israeli forces in the area have about ten Palestinian “targets” remaining, as he termed it, and that at least 110 suspects have been arrested and interrogated. “There is no corner of the refugee camp that we haven’t reached,” he said.

Hagari added that there are about 300 armed Palestinians in the camp according to army estimates. Generally, most Palestinian militants avoided direct confrontations with Israeli soldiers, he said.

IDF Chief of Staff Herzl Halevi commented on the operation while speaking at a ceremony at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, saying that “Jenin has become a city of refuge for terrorists, specifically the refugee camp, and we are stopping this in the operation,” said Halevi. “We hit the terrorists hard, we arrested many and destroyed many of their weapons and ammunition. These are the same weapons that harm Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers,” Halevi added, and concluded by saying that “There will be no safe place for terrorists – and those who escaped today, we’ll make sure to find them tomorrow.”

A joint statement from the IDF, the Shin Bet security service and the Israeli Border Police said that Israeli forces have located and confiscated thousands of weapons since the operation began, including explosives, ammunition and material for explosives. It continued to state that over 300 suspects will be interrogated by the security forces, 30 of whom have been arrested.

In addition, the IDF found 14 apartments and military operation rooms in Jenin, as well as six explosives laboratories that were located and destroyed, where over 300 charges, and materials for making charges and other weapons were found.

Another 10 muzzle loaders, 24 M-16 rifles, eight pistols, hundreds of bullets for various types of weapons were confiscated and deactivated. Israeli forces also confiscated hundreds of thousands of shekels worth of cash and tens of kilograms of chemical materials for preparing explosives were confiscated.

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