Thousands of Palestinians flee Jenin refugee camp amid Israeli raid

About 3,000 Palestinians have fled the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank since Israeli forces began a significant military onslaught in the area on Monday, a Palestinian official announced on Tuesday.

“There are about 3,000 people who have left the camp so far,” Jenin deputy governor Kamal Abu al-Roub told the AFP news agency, adding that arrangements were being made to house the displaced in schools and other shelters in the city of Jenin.

He said about 18,000 Palestinians live in the refugee camp.

Ten Palestinian people have been confirmed killed so far in Jenin with about 100 hospitalised and 20 of those in critical condition, according to authorities.

Offices and businesses across the occupied West Bank were expected to close in response to calls for a general strike to protest against the Israeli army’s operation in Jenin, which the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas has described as a “war crime”.

Palestinian Health Minister Mai Al-Kaila told Al Jazeera that the situation in the Jenin refugee camp has become “very, very difficult”.

“The water network and electricity network is damaged, especially inside the refugee camp, which makes the life more difficult for the refugees,” she said, adding, “The health situation is really very critical.”

Al-Kaila explained that hospitals were crowded with those injured in the attack and workers were struggling to arrive at healthcare centres due to the violence.

But, she added, her ministry had already prepared local hospitals for such an assault.

“Medical supplies and the medicines were transported to the hospitals. That will be enough for three months. And that was done last week, because we anticipated that Israel is going to have an aggression to Jenin Governorate,” Al-Kaila said.

International medical charity Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) has also called for health workers to be “assured of unhindered access” to those in need of medical care in Jenin amid the Israeli military’s largest raid on the city’s refugee camp in more than 20 years.

According to the organisation, all roads leading to the Jenin refugee camp have been blocked by Israeli forces “for the duration of the military operation despite the presence of patients in need of care inside the refugee camp”.

“Beyond killing and injuring people, this military operation has also affected health structures and obstructed the medical response to the emergency,” the organisation announced in a statement.

Israeli “military bulldozers destroyed multiple roads leading to the Jenin refugee camp, making it nearly impossible for ambulances to reach patients”, MSF said.

“Additionally, Palestinian paramedics have been forced to proceed on foot to reach people in need of desperate medical treatment in an area with active gunfire and drone strikes,” it added.

The European Union’s special representative for the Middle East peace process Sven Koopmans said the situation in Jenin has raised the possibility “of a major eruption”, and has called on all sides to protect civilians.

Koopmans stated he was following the events in Jenin closely, which had come after “months of escalating violence and increasing hopelessness”.

“We call on all parties to protect civilian life and respect humanitarian law,” Koopmans wrote in a tweet, adding that he had met with Ireland’s deputy prime minister, Micheal Martin, where the two had discussed the “terrible situation” in Jenin and the need to work towards “peace and security for all”.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “is deeply concerned about the developments in Jenin,” according to a statement released by his office.

Guterres “affirms that all military operations must be conducted with full respect for international humanitarian law,” the statement says.

Asked about Israeli drone strikes, a spokesperson tells reporters, “It is not acceptable for there to be armed attacks in areas of high population density.”

“All parties need to abide by international humanitarian law,” the spokesperson stated.

The spokesperson added Guterres is evaluating the situation, and is “in touch with a range of parties,” while he stresses the need to avoid further escalation.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) has also said it is deeply concerned over the damage inflicted by Israel’s assault on the densely populated Jenin refugee camp, the Palestinian news agency WAFA reported.

At least five Palestinian refugees were among those killed, the agency stressed.

Water and electricity services were disrupted in large areas of the camp, UNRWA said, adding that all the agency’s installations, including four schools and one health centre, were not functioning due to the attack.

“Critical UNRWA services cannot be delivered,” Adam Bouloukos, UNRWA’s director in the occupied West Bank, wrote on Twitter.

“Humanitarian access is most urgent now,” he added.

UN agencies have raised concerns over the scale of Israel’s assault in Jenin, adding that first aid responders have been prevented from reaching critically injured people.

“We are alarmed at the scale of air and ground operations that are taking place in Jenin in the occupied West Bank, and air strikes hitting a densely populated refugee camp,” Vanessa Huguenin, a spokesperson for the UN humanitarian office, told a briefing.

She said three children were among those killed, without providing details.

“First responders have been prevented from entering the (Jenin) refugee camp, including to reach persons who have been critically injured,” stated WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier, referring to restrictions put in place by Israeli forces.

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