Palestinian students walk past piles of tires that are being collected and prepared for burning in possible future Israeli army incursions, in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, Tuesday, April 12, 2022. The latest wave of violence Israeli-Palestinian has been centered on Jenin, a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank that has long been a bastion of armed struggle against Israeli rule. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)


The journey of the Palestinian who opened fire at a street bar in Tel Aviv last week, killing three young Israelis and sending the city under lockdown, began a two-hour drive to an impoverished refugee camp in the heart of the Occupied West Bank. .

Twenty years after Jenin saw one of the biggest battles of the second Palestinian uprising, Israel is again launching near-daily raids into the camp and exchanging fire with local fighters. Decades of dispossession, poverty and violence have only deepened the camp’s reputation as a bastion of armed struggle against Israeli rule.

Tires, gutted appliances and other rubble pile up near the entrances to the camp, which turns into a fortress at night, when the roundups take place. Narrow roads wind through a jumble of squat concrete houses built into the hillside, some adorned with portraits of slain Palestinians and flags of armed factions.

Palestinian assailants have killed 14 Israelis in a series of attacks in recent weeks, and clashes at a major Jerusalem holy site on Friday further heightened tensions.

Raad Hazem, a 28-year-old man from the Jenin camp, attacked the bar in central Tel Aviv last Thursday and escaped a massive manhunt for hours before police shot him and killed him. kills him near a mosque.

A large poster celebrating Hazem as a martyr to the Palestinian cause was hung above the camp’s main entrance after the attack, praising him for “imposing a curfew” on the seaside metropolis.

Israel launched a wave of arrest raids across the West Bank, sparking clashes with Palestinian militants. At least 25 Palestinians were killed, many of whom had carried out attacks or were involved in the clashes, but also an unarmed woman and a lawyer who appears to have been killed by mistake. Twelve were from or near Jenin.

The upsurge in violence came as little surprise to Ahmed Tobasi, the artistic director of the Freedom Theatre, which was co-founded by a famous activist and offers acting classes, performance halls and a safe space for young Palestinians in the camp.

“What do you expect from a child growing up in a refugee camp, who sees army raids morning, noon and night? “, he said. “His father is a prisoner, his brother is a prisoner, his mother has been detained, his friends are prisoners or martyrs.

“There is no possibility of being anything else,” he said.

The camp is home to Palestinian families who fled or were driven out of what is now Israel during the 1948 war surrounding the establishment of Israel. Like other camps across the Middle East, it has become a crowded, built-up neighborhood where a UN agency provides basic services.

Jenin became a militant stronghold during the 2000-2005 Intifada, when Palestinians launched dozens of suicide bombings and other attacks against civilians, and Israel imposed closures and carried out deadly raids. On March 27, 2002, a suicide bomber struck a large Passover gathering in the coastal city of Netanya, killing at least 30 people and injuring 140.

A few days later, Israeli troops launched a massive operation in the Jenin camp. For eight days and nights they fought the militants street by street, using armored bulldozers to destroy rows of houses, many of which had been booby-trapped. An AP reporter who visited the camp immediately afterwards said it looked like an earthquake.

At least 52 Palestinians, up to half of whom were civilians, were killed in the fighting, according to the UN. Twenty-three Israeli soldiers were killed, 13 of them in a single ambush.

Two decades later, the Palestinian dream of an independent state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza – territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war – is further away than ever.

Peace talks stalled more than a decade ago, and Israel continues to build and expand Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which it has unilaterally annexed and considers part of its capital. Gaza is ruled by the Islamic militant group Hamas, and the Palestinian Authority’s limited autonomy is confined to towns and villages in the West Bank.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state, but his government has taken steps to improve economic conditions, including easing some movement restrictions and issuing thousands of work permits to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

Israel had hoped such moves would help prevent a repeat of last year, when protests and clashes in Jerusalem during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan sparked an 11-day war in Gaza.

Now, in the wake of the attacks, Israel is tightening restrictions around Jenin and calling on the PA, which coordinates with it on security issues, to act.

But the increasingly corrupt and authoritarian Palestinian Authority is mired in a crisis of legitimacy that would deepen even more if seen fighting alongside Israel. Palestinian officials say the relentless Israeli raids in Jenin only undermine it further.

“We are prepared in principle to work to maintain law and order and to implement our agreements with the Israelis, but in exchange for what?” Jenin Governor Akram Rajoub told The Associated. Press. “I don’t work for the Israelis. If I don’t see a political solution on the horizon, then why should I do anything?

Yossi Kuperwasser, a retired Israeli general who held senior posts in the West Bank during the Intifada and is now at the Jerusalem Public Affairs Center, says the reverse is true.

“You are looking at the chicken and the egg here. We operate there because they don’t,” he said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the Tel Aviv attack, but other officials did not. Rajoub visited the mourning tent of the attacker’s family and gave a speech full of praise which he later posted on Facebook.

“It’s something very disturbing,” Kuperwasser said. “The Palestinian Authority still thinks it is in an ongoing struggle against Zionism and against Israel as the state of the Jewish people.”

In the Jenin camp, the PA is perceived at best as a provider of public services, at worst as a collaborator of the occupation.

“The Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian resistance are opposed,” said Osama Hroub, a local leader of the Islamic Jihad militant group, which has a strong presence in Jenin.

“The Palestinian Authority performs its specific security duties in exchange for economic favors, with no regard for the Palestinian people,” he said.

Few expect another full-fledged uprising. Israeli officials say the recent attacks appear to have been carried out by lone attackers with perhaps a few accomplices, rather than militant groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

In the streets of Jenin, tires are piled up in anticipation of the next confrontation.

“We will live on our land and die with dignity, and we will not give in to occupation,” Rajoub said.


Associated Press reporter Nasser Nasser contributed to this report.