Jenin, occupied West Financial institution – Throughout the ultimate hours of Israel’s two-day aerial and floor assault on the Jenin refugee camp earlier this month, the Israeli military mentioned it had besieged plenty of Palestinian resistance fighters in a mosque.
After destroying the decrease a part of the al-Ansar mosque – the place members of the Jenin Brigades would function – with explosive drones and focused missiles, the military introduced that it had discovered tunnels and that it destroyed them.
It claimed that its forces had “neutralised an underground terrorist route” and that the tunnel “was rendered inoperable”.
What Israeli forces didn’t say, nonetheless, was that the fighters managed to withdraw safely from the mosque by means of the tunnels – the first-ever to be dug underneath the camp – fighters and residents of the camp say.
“The fighters have been besieged however they managed to flee,” one fighter instructed Al Jazeera.
The raid on Jenin has been described as the most important on the densely populated camp since 2002, in the course of the second Intifada, or mass Palestinian rebellion.
Between July 2 and 4, Israel pounded the camp with drones and missiles whereas a whole lot of troopers raided on foot, taking cowl in individuals’s houses and destroying massive components of the camp. Twelve Palestinians, together with three kids, have been killed, together with one Israeli soldier.
The Israeli operation was supposed to weaken the Jenin Brigades – a small, cross-factional Palestinian armed resistance group primarily based within the camp that emerged in September 2021.
However a number of fighters instructed Al Jazeera that the overwhelming majority of these killed have been civilians and that the Israeli military had didn’t kill or seize most fighters.
“They [Israel] mentioned they arrested 120 individuals – none of them is from the Brigades. They arrested aged males and uninvolved individuals. The place are the fighters?” a senior fighter, Hani Obaid*, instructed Al Jazeera.
“Their operation was a failure. Their solely purpose is to kill the fighters. However each time they struggle, they aren’t capable of. It’s true that we misplaced a few fighters, all of whom are pricey to us, however we have been anticipating extra males to be killed,” Obaid continued.
Al Jazeera approached the Israeli army for touch upon the claims that almost all of the Jenin Brigades fighters survived and the existence of the tunnels, however acquired no response on the time of publication.
Tunnels underneath Jenin
The tunnels discovered underneath the camp mark a brand new and unprecedented phenomenon within the Jenin camp, which was the location of a lethal Israeli raid in 2002, during which greater than 50 Palestinians have been killed over 11 days.
Al Jazeera entered the tunnels underneath the mosque the morning after the military withdrew and located that they have been intact, with electrical energy strains for lights and digging instruments nonetheless of their place. The tunnels have been about 10 metres (33 ft) deep and 100-150 metres lengthy, and sure took months to dig.
The tunnels seen by Al Jazeera have been situated in two locations: the aforementioned tunnel underneath the al-Ansar mosque within the al-Damaj neighbourhood of the camp, and a second tunnel inside a house within the Hawasheen neighbourhood, the place the headquarters of the Jenin Brigades have been situated, an space Israel all however destroyed.
Jamal Hweil, a Fatah political chief residing within the camp and former fighter in the course of the second Intifada, mentioned he believes the tunnels symbolize a improvement within the techniques of the Palestinian fighters.
“The [Israeli] occupation developed its instruments for monitoring the fighters by means of drones and planes, in order that they began on the lookout for secure methods to maneuver round simply when the military raids the camp,” Hweil instructed Al Jazeera.
“It’s clear that the fighters managed to withdraw from the mosque, and that they used these tunnels to trigger the Israeli operation to fail,” he continued, including that “the fighters are round and they’re all OK.”
“The Israeli military could have identified beforehand about these tunnels, however they didn’t know the place they have been,” he mentioned.
Hweil, who as soon as tried to dig himself out of Israel’s Megiddo jail in 2002, mentioned he and residents of the camp have been pleasantly shocked by the flexibility of the fighters to dig the tunnels.
“This goes previous creativity. The Jenin refugee camp is constructed on stone. The youth have been digging by means of stone – it’s very tough. This sort of work wants an infinite quantity of persistence and can, and it wants expertise,” he remarked.
Nonetheless, Hweil mentioned, he believes “Israel is making an attempt to amplify the matter to make use of it as an excuse to hit the camp once more”.
“Our powers are very modest and easy. Our youth attempt to profit from what they’ve, however it isn’t corresponding to Israel’s powers, backed by america,” he famous.
‘They have been humiliated’
Regardless of the widespread harm to houses and roads brought on by Israeli forces in the course of the two-day assault, many residents mentioned they have been pleased to see fighters roaming the streets of the camp the following morning.
“All of the buildings, furnishings, houses, vehicles – all of that may be changed. An important factor is that the fighters are secure,” one native, Mutee al-Saadi, instructed Al Jazeera.
One other resident, Amany Abdullah*, mentioned: “We have been very afraid for our fighters. However thank God, they’re all secure.”
“Once they [the fighters] began showing the following day, it was as if I noticed my son,” mentioned Amany, who mentioned her son was a member of the Brigades and was killed by Israel in latest months. “The combat just isn’t over,” she instructed Al Jazeera.
“These are our sons. They have been combating with out meals and water for 48 hours. And but, there may be full silence. Till when are we going to stay like this?” continued Amany.
In the meantime, resident Bassem Tahayneh, 41, mentioned the assault on the camp had not challenged the residents’ resolve.
“What they did to us encourages us to do much more than this, and for the resistance to change into stronger,” Tahayneh instructed Al Jazeera from his dwelling within the camp the morning after Israeli forces withdrew.
“They [Israelis] have been humiliated – they couldn’t implement their management on the camp. What sort of management is it whenever you destroyed the streets and the houses? They couldn’t do something to the youth.
“These youth are our delight; they’re the honourable ones amongst us. Our hearts are with each other in Jenin. We’re all with the resistance.”
To the fighters, Israel’s failure to crush the Jenin Brigades signifies that it’s only a matter of time earlier than one other Israeli military raid.
“We’ll proceed to combat,” mentioned Obaid. “Once they return, we will likely be prepared.”
*Names have been modified to guard the identification of the fighters and folks.