Long hours of exchange of fire in the Jenin area: after 11:00 a.m., the IDF spokesperson says that the military forces continue to operate in Jenin, and an exchange of fire is still taking place there. The activity in the area began early in the morning, in an operation by the Border Police and paratroopers to arrest suspected terrorists. But when the troops left - around 7:20 a.m. - an IDF Panther armored vehicle was hit by explosives that were placed in the axle and exploded underneath it.
A senior IDF official said that the operation to rescue the military vehicles stuck in the battlefield – at least five of them – will last "a good few hours." However, he clarified that the incident is under the control and command on the ground of the regional brigades. He said that the IDF is using a Zik unmanned aerial vehicle to help with the rescue.
The engines of the other military vehicles that were stuck were damaged by terrorist fire, and therefore disabled. IDF Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Herzi Halevi held a situation assessment with Yehuda Fuchs, head of the Central Command to "make sure that the command has all the resources for action." Seven wounded soldiers were taken to Rambam hospital in Haifa and Emek in Afula, and their families have been informed.
One of the protected vehicles apparently carried three charges. Three other military vehicles also were damaged, including one of those that came to help the first vehicle that was damaged. IDF forces are trying to rescue those vehicles, using special technologies. To enable the rescue, and to keep terrorists away, the IDF launched an air attack using Apache helicopters - for the first time in more than 20 years in the West Bank.A few hours after the start of the event, the IDF spokesman confirmed the unusual attack by Apache helicopters - after first reporting that the activity had been the launch of decoy lights from a helicopter.
The IDF is investigating whether this morning's activity was an "explosives ambush," in which the terrorists knew the troops' exit route or guessed it - and planted significant numbers of explosives there, which managed to hit the armored vehicles. Accurate shots were also fired at the troops.
On the Palestinian side, four deaths were reported - Ahmad Saqer,15; Khaled Asa'sah, 21; Qais Jabareen, 21; and the wanted Qassam Abul Sariya, 29, the brother of the terrorist who carried out the attack in Afula in 2001. Several dozen more were wounded by gunfire, including nine in critical condition. According to Palestinian reports from Monday morning, large forces entered Jenin, and clashes began in several areas, during which – according to the Palestinians – the soldiers fired live fire, stun grenades and tear gas.
The Jenin Brigade of the al-Quds Brigades, the military arm of Islamic Jihad, claimed responsibility for placing the charges and said that they are "in response to the continued barbaric aggression of the occupation forces." Islamic Jihad spokesman Tariq Salmi said that "We salute the heroic fighters and all the resistance fighters who defend Jenin and bravely confront the forces of terrorism and aggression."
The activity in the Jenin area Monday morning comes under the shadow of the security establishment's assessment that the IDF is very close to launching a wide-ranging military operation that will focus on the northern West Bank. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who is a member of the Security-Political Cabinet and minister operating in the Defense Ministry, said that he is "strengthening the hands of our fighters who are operating in Jenin Under heavy fire and praying for their safety and success. The time has come to replace the 'tweezers' activity with a broad operation to eradicate the nests of terrorism in northern Samaria and to restore deterrence and security in the region." He said that he would demand an urgent meeting of the cabinet on the matter: "The time has come to bring in air forces and armor and protect the lives of our fighters."
Officials in the defense establishment told Ynet last week that in the last year, when Operation Breakwater took place, the IDF is operating more on the offensive in the area than in the past, and the forces are working in a targeted, aggressive and surgical manner. But the purpose of such an operation, if it is carried out, is to act more broadly and use a "cutting the grass" strategy, with the ultimate goal being to restore deterrence..
Such an operation will also have broad consequences regarding cooperation with the Palestinians. At the moment, the IDF would like to see more involvement of the Palestinian Authority in arrests and in the prevention of terrorism. The security establishment is also preparing for the possibility of security tensions, and even the cessation of security coordination with the Palestinian mechanisms during an operation.
First published: 12:29, 06.19.23