JENIN, West Bank (Reuters) – Thousands of people were evacuated from the Jenin refugee camp as one of Israel’s biggest military operations in years moved to a second day on Tuesday and a suspected car-ramming attack in Tel Aviv underlined the risk of a spillover in violence.

The operation, which the army said was aimed at destroying infrastructure and weapons of militant groups in the camp, was launched with a drone strike in the early hours of Monday and continued all day, with hundreds of troops. At least 10 people have been killed, Palestinian officials said.

After more than 24 hours of clashes of varying intensity, Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanebi said the operation was “close to completing the achievement of the goals set,” but there was no specific indication of when it might end.

A car-ramming and stabbing attack in Israel’s economic hub Tel Aviv, in which six people were hurt, showed the risk that the impact of the operation could lead to a further escalation. An Israeli police spokesperson described the incident as terrorism.

In Jenin, sporadic gunfire and explosions sounded near the refugee camp but parts of the city were quiet and life proceeded in relative normality.

Late on Monday, the Palestinian Red Crescent said it had evacuated 500 families from the camp, or around 3,000 people, and UN agencies expressed alarm at scale of the air and ground operation.

Jihad Hassan, 63, who fled the camp with his family after his son was wounded, said the drone strike had prompted him to leave. “You don’t hear a sound, you just see the explosion,” he said, as he waited with his son at the Jenin Government Hospital. “It is something, when a person is forced to leave their home,” he said.

Echoing Palestinian emergency services, the World Health Organization said first responders had been prevented from entering the camp to reach wounded people. An Israeli military spokesman said there had been no such order.

“Ambulances have a free pass and we are also coordinating the entry of ambulances,” he told reporters late on Monday.

However power and water supplies remained cut off in the camp and in some areas of the city after bulldozers that ploughed up roads looking for improvised bombs cut power cables and a main water pipe.

A Palestinian wounded during the clashes died overnight and another body was found in the morning, bringing the death toll to 10, with around 100 wounded, 20 of them critically, the Palestinian health ministry said. Another Palestinian was killed in Ramallah on Monday.

The Islamic Jihad faction claimed four of the dead as its fighters. Hamas, another Islamist faction, claimed a fifth. The status of the others was unclear, although Israeli officials said as far as they were aware, no civilians had been killed.

Problems at the hospital morgue, forced health services to transfer some bodies from Jenin to another hospital in nearby Qabatia, officials said.


Offices and businesses across the occupied West Bank were expected to close on Tuesday in response to calls for a general strike to protest the operation, which the Palestinian Authority has described as a “war crime”.

International reaction to the operation has been mixed. The United States said it respected Israel’s right to defend itself but said it was imperative to avoid civilian casualties.

Mohammed Moustafa Orfy, Egypt’s permanent representative to the Arab League, said the operation would hinder efforts to bring reconciliation after months of escalating violence.

“What is happening in Jenin, from brutal killing using the Israeli war machine, is aimed at shrinking to a very large extent the chances of reviving the peace process, he said.

The densely populated camp, where some 14,000 people live in less than half a square kilometre, has been one of the focal points of a wave of violence that has swept the West Bank for more than a year.

Hundreds of fighters from militant groups including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah, live in the camp, which has been fortified with a range of obstacles and watching posts to counter the regular army raids.

On Tuesday, the military said border police had found an underground shaft used to store explosives in the refugee camp and had dismantled two observation posts.

(Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Conor Humphries)

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