Destruction and humiliation in Jenin after the longest Israeli incursion of the war

In the West Bank city, the scene of weekly raids, 12 people have died and hundreds have been arrested. Soldiers left insulting graffiti and recorded a video mocking Islam inside a mosque

Israel Hamas War
Malak Jatib, 34, mourns in her home in the Jenin refugee camp (West Bank) the death of her son Musa, 16, who was shot while he was in the Khalil Suleiman hospital.Luis De Vega Hernández
Luis de Vega

“They killed Musa in front of me.” Sharaf Janfar, 29, points with his finger to the exact place where a bullet struck the heart of a 16-year-old boy on Thursday, inside the facilities of the Khalil Suleiman hospital in Jenin, in the West Bank. Janfar has a mobile stand that sells coffee outside the hospital. He reopened the stand on Friday, after Israel ended its 60-hour incursion that killed 12 people, including the 16-year-old teenager, and detained hundreds of people. It was the longest operation of the 15 that troops have carried out since the Gaza war began in October, when Hamas killed 1,200 people in Israel.

The Israeli army said that it was an anti-terrorist operation which led to the arrest of 60 people, the seizure of 50 weapons and explosives and the destruction of tunnels. As a reminder, the soldiers also left offensive graffiti and even recorded videos inside mosques uttering insulting chants in Hebrew against Islam. According to the Israeli army, perpetrators were arrested for the offense. The Palestinian Authority (PA) described what happened in Jenin, a stronghold of the Palestinian resistance, as a “dangerous escalation.”

Jenin, with 62 dead, is the hardest hit town in Palestine outside the Gaza Strip. In this latest raid, 12 residents were killed in the northern West Bank city. The operation concluded Thursday afternoon. Among the victims was Musa Jatib, who was shot while unarmed, according to the hospital and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) sources. The West Bank — where some 290 people have died in the conflict — and the border with Lebanon are the two battle fronts that Israel is keeping open, in addition to the main theater of war: Gaza.

The hospital is located at the entrance to the Jenin refugee camp, the main objective of Israeli troops in the West Bank. It is an irregular network of alleys and makeshift homes, that have been erected over the decades. At least 12,000 people live in less than half a square mile. In one of these houses, Malak Jatib, 34, cries inconsolably. She is Musa’s mother. Jatib receives condolences from other women in the countryside. One of them has also lost a child in the conflict.

“I gave everything for him to become a man and as soon as he grows up, they kill him,” says Malak. “They broke his heart, like mine,” she whispers, while showing videos on her cell phone of her son’s funeral, which was held that same Thursday.

Higher up, in the upper part of the Jenin camp, not only did Hamas take up positions, but they also carried out an important part of the October 7 operation. “On this street there are at least a dozen shuhada,” says a resident, in reference to the martyrs for the Palestinian cause. They are talking about a road known as Maheub in maps. Along with the rubble, half-crushed cars and some bullet casings, there are numerous posters and tributes in memory of all the victims.

Graffiti left by Israeli soldiers with the date of the Hamas attack, October 7, in the Jenin refugee camp (West Bank) after the last incursion.
Graffiti left by Israeli soldiers with the date of the Hamas attack, October 7, in the Jenin refugee camp (West Bank) after the last incursion.Luis De Vega Hernández

The neighborhood children knew them and told stories while pointing fingers at them. Ahmed, only three years old, walks around with his toy Kalashnikov rifle. In front of one of the houses, there is an image of a proud young man with a rifle. He is Motasim Sabagh, a member of Hamas, who died on March 7. His father, Naser, 50, and his brother, Musab, 19, were two of those detained by the Israeli army before being released again on Thursday.

They spent a day and a night in Israeli facilities and say they slept in a military SUV packed with handcuffed and blindfolded arrestees. Naser says the soldiers accused him of being a terrorist after inspecting his cell phone and seeing the photo of his son Motasim. He says that Motasim made his living as a painter in Israel and that he earned “a lot,” about 9,000 shekels a month (about $2,450). Musab’s interrogation was longer, about two hours, during which, according to the young man, they tried to make him declare that he was a member of Hamas and asked him for information about other residents of the refugee camp.

Next to the Sabagh family home, there are the ruins of a house destroyed by the Israeli army. It was blown up on Thursday morning and more than a day later it was still smoking. It belonged to Maher Marai, 55, who talks in front of the painting of another shahid (singular of shuhada): his son Mohamed, 25, who died a year and a half ago. Marai, who has another son in prison, believes that the house was demolished because another of his children gave shelter there to a man wanted by Israel. The locals point out, however, that they could have found a tunnel in the two-story building.

“We will resist”

Next to Marai, little Murad, 13 years old, keeps looking up at the sky, where a drone thought to be from the Israeli army hovers persistently and loudly. “We will resist,” says Maher Marai determinedly. EL PAÍS also located next to Maheub Street the remains of a booth where the army claimed to have found explosives, according to the video that recorded the blast.

The destruction — left as a reminder of the military incursion — is everywhere. Streets in ruins, water pipes ripped out causing flooding, cars and houses destroyed with bulldozers or blown up with explosives. Also striking is the graffiti of the Star of David and the menorah, the seven-branched Jewish candelabrum. In some cases, messages were also left, such as “October 7, we will never forget,” which was graffitied on a mosque. Throughout the camp, there were posters and banners with the faces of dead residents, many of whom were members of the armed resistance. Penises were drawn on their faces.

From outside one of the houses you can hear the voices of Halima Tajan, 80, who, in order not to be alone, took refuge with her daughter during the days of the incursion. “Look, there’s shit!” she exclaims, pointing to the floor of her living room, where he claims that one of the soldiers who occupied her home defecated. She has covered the stinking remains with a cloth, but insists on showing them. Takhan lives near the home of Musa Khatib, the 16-year-old murdered in the hospital, who is now considered a shahid.

The teen, according to those who spoke to EL PAÍS, ran to the emergency room door, fatally wounded when he was shot, and collapsed. “It was 1 p.m.,” confirms Jiris Jader, 49, one of the hospital’s nursing managers, looking at the time on his cell phone. They took him immediately to the operating room, but they couldn’t do anything for him, he says. The death of the minor was also reported by MSF, which had some team members in the facilities and also tried in vain to save his life.

One of the streets of the Jenin refugee camp (West Bank) after the army's two and a half day incursion.
One of the streets of the Jenin refugee camp (West Bank) after the army's two and a half day incursion.Luis de Vega

“Musa had just been helping to take stretchers out of the ambulances,” recalls Jiris Jader as he recounts how the soldiers, a few meters from where the young man was shot, were blocking access to the hospital. They even forced the ambulance drivers to undress and kneel in the middle of the street, as shown in images. Such abuses are common in Jenin and elsewhere in the West Bank and have been repeatedly denounced by MSF.

Rehat Mustada Yusef, 68, remains in one of the rooms of Khalil Suleiman hospital. She says she was treated for chest pain on Wednesday, and was going home in an ambulance with her sister and daughter, when the vehicle was shot. A splinter became lodged under the eyelid of her right eye. In Khalid Suleiman hospital — which is named after a local Red Crescent leader murdered by Israel — cats roam the corridors, while people smoke. Outside, there is calm. Until the next Israeli incursion.

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