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Tensions Surge in the Occupied West Bank with Christmas Raids and Mounting Violence

Published December 26, 2023
7 months ago

The city of Bethlehem, revered as the birthplace of Jesus Christ, faced a somber Christmas this year amid a series of raids by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank. On December 25, 2023, Israeli forces stormed Jenin refugee camp and surrounding areas, particularly targeting symbols of Palestinian nationalism and resistance according to reports.

The Jenin-based Freedom Theatre reported on social media that the skies were illuminated with flares as the Israeli army conducted raids, intensifying the already fraught atmosphere in the historically resistant stronghold. Clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli army have been intensifying since the conflict with Hamas in Gaza escalated on October 7.

Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from Jenin refugee camp, indicated that while Israeli forces raided homes in search of Palestinians to arrest, no detentions were confirmed. The apparent lack of results from the raids coupled with the call by Israeli forces for Palestinian fighters to surrender, which was unheeded, suggest a layered operation characterized by both tactical objectives and psychological impact.

Bethlehem, along with regions near Nablus, Jericho, Ramallah, and indeed Jenin, underwent raids in a night of widespread military activity. The operations led to at least 20 arrests in the village of Burqa and further arrests in Al-Jalama village, northeast of Jenin.

The violence went beyond raids, with the Palestinian news agency Wafa reporting the shooting of a 17-year-old boy in the neck by Israeli forces during a town raid. This event adds to the increasing confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers which, since October 7, have cost the lives of at least 303 Palestinians in the West Bank alone.

The conflict spills into civilian areas as well, with reports of over 700,000 Israeli settlers living in illegal settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem - many on private Palestinian land. Settler attacks, already a concerning trend, escalated sharply over the past three months, involving violence ranging from shootings and arson to physical assaults on Palestinians and their property.

The United Nations has drawn attention to the complicity of Israeli forces in many settler attacks, stating that they were either accompanying or actively supporting assailants in almost half of the incidents recorded.

This surge in violence comes despite various international moves aimed at curbing Israeli settler extremism, including visa restrictions imposed by countries like Belgium and the United States on those perceived as undermining peace in the region.

The response of the Israeli government, led by Prime Minister Netanyahu, to the situation includes a controversial injection of $21 million in support of new settlements in the West Bank. Such actions underscore the deeply entrenched and polarized nature of the conflict, lending to an environment where peace and security remain elusive.

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