Jenin operation is a game-changer, but sustaining the momentum is key

Analysis: Israel reclaims freedom of action and significant international legitimacy, and even terror groups in Gaza and Lebanon have opted to stay out; However, after IDF forces withdraw, terrorists will emerge from their hideouts and seek vengeance

Ron Ben-Yishai|
IDF strikes explosives laboratory in Jenin

In the first 24 hours of the Israeli counterterrorism offensive in the West Bank’s Jenin, the IDF and Shin Bet achieved a crucial objective, if not the most important one: operational freedom.
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This achievement signifies that the IDF, Border Police and Shin Bet special forces have regained the ability to conduct precise operations within the Jenin refugee camp without the presence of surveillance cameras alerting terrorists to their entry points, timing, and the routes chosen by the IDF's armored vehicles. Even more important, the explosives planted throughout the camp against advancing forces have been neutralized.
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Smoke billowing over Jenin during IDF counterterrorism operation
(Photo: AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
This operational freedom, achieved without casualties to our forces, will enable the IDF to implement its new comprehensive strategy in the northern West Bank, based on limited-scale but intense operations that will, within a few months, lead to the erosion of the terrorist activity emanating from the region. This comprehensive strategy aims to put terrorists on the run, gather additional intelligence on their activities and infrastructure and then strike them, over and over.
It is still difficult to judge whether the operation in Jenin has instilled deterrence among Palestinian terrorists and against Iran, which seeks to puppeteer them.
However, even in the "soft" domain, Israel, the IDF and the Shin Bet can claim two positive takeaways. First, Israel receives almost full legitimacy for its actions in the international arena, and it can cautiously be said that the condemnations flowing Monday from Arab countries were nothing more than lip service.
Another noteworthy fact is that the Palestinian terrorist and guerrilla organizations in Gaza and Lebanon did not join the fighting, and the daily lives of Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank continue almost completely undisrupted.
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לוחמי צה"ל ושב"כ איתרו והשמידו מעבדה שהכילה מאות מטענים ואמצעי לחימה
לוחמי צה"ל ושב"כ איתרו והשמידו מעבדה שהכילה מאות מטענים ואמצעי לחימה
Mortar shell seized by IDF soldiers in Jenin
(Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
This should be credited to the careful and precise operations of the forces, which miraculously prevented casualties among uninvolved Palestinians, and what is highly important to us - there were no casualties on our side, except for one minor injury.
However, this careful and precise operation, which included aerial strikes and pinpoint actions within the camp, resulted in a relatively low number of terrorists neutralized considering the scale of the operation.
As of Tuesday morning, there are still hundreds of terrorists hiding in the Jenin refugee camp, taking shelter in their hideouts. When the operation is over, it is safe to assume that they will emerge from their hiding and attempt to seek revenge.
It is highly probable that many of the terrorists, who are members of the Jenin Brigade—which is the local branch of Palestinian Islamic Jihad—Hamas, and Fatah splinter groups, will resume their activities once the IDF withdraws from the camp. This is because the "provocation and response" tactics employed by the IDF, which currently lies in wait for the terrorists in the camp's alleys, have not yielded the desired results.
IDF commandos clash with terrorists in Jenin
(Video: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
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רחובות מחנה פליטים ג'נין
רחובות מחנה פליטים ג'נין
Streets of Jenin refugee camp
(Photo: Quds Feed)
The Palestinian belligerents, likely shocked by the aerial strikes and the rapid entry of IDF ground forces, have fled, gone into hiding and avoided confrontations with IDF forces who are lurking inside the houses and alleys of the refugee camp. Forces will likely employ some creative ruse to compel the terrorists to reveal themselves and increase the number of casualties among them.
Such a move would carry a much greater risk for the IDF, Shin Bet and Border Police fighters operating in the camp. The intensification of friction poses a dangerous threat to both sides, and this must also be taken into account because any escalation could shift the ongoing offensive from a net plus to a negative.
Public consciousness plays a particularly important role in the Israeli public, so it seems unnecessary to try to extract the full results achievable in a single operation from the current one but rather to leave something for next time.
The comprehensive strategy currently employed by the IDF in the northern West Bank - judging by the results so far - will achieve its objectives through continuous pressure based on numerous limited-scale operations, rather than a single large-scale operation. The Jenin operation has laid the groundwork for the implementation of the strategy to suppress terrorism in the northern West Bank, and for now, it is sufficient to conclude it soon - within a day or two at most.
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