Israeli forces went on high alert around the West Bank and the Gaza Strip after their alleged killing of nine Palestinians, including an elderly woman, in a raid in the West Bank’s Jenin refugee camp triggered threats of “revenge” from the Palestinian side.
Hamas, a Palestinian armed group that rules the Gaza Strip, called for retaliation. Saleh al-Aaruri, deputy head of the political bureau of Hamas, said in a statement that the reaction “will come soon to make Israel pay a price for what it did in the morning”, Xinhua news agency reported.
In the wake of the “deadly raid”, the Israeli army has reinforced its forces across the West Bank with one battalion, while the air force boosted its deployment of Iron Dome anti-rocket batteries in the south, according to several military statements.
In towns in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip, the municipalities announced that cultural events have been cancelled for fear of retaliatory rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that his country “is not interested in an escalation.” However, he instructed the security forces “to prepare for any scenario in the various arenas to ensure the safety of Israeli citizens.” Chief of Staff Hertzi Halevi also instructed the army to “boost preparedness.”
Meanwhile, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland called for calm. He said in a statement that he was “deeply alarmed and saddened by the continuing cycle of violence”, adding it was “crucial to prevent more loss of life and remain engaged with Israeli and Palestinian authorities to de-escalate tensions, restore calm and avoid further conflict”.
Israel’s state-owned Kan TV reported that a US envoy as well as Qatari and Egyptian officials are attempting to prevent rocket fire from Gaza by militants with Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an armed group, to stop further escalation in the region.
More than 170 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank in 2022, and at least 29 have been killed in January this year, according to figures from the Palestinian Health Ministry. According to a statement issued by the United Nations, 2022 was the deadliest year for Palestinians since 2006.
The tensions have been further aggravated since Israel’s new right-wing government under Netanyahu was sworn in last month.