Patriarch Pizzaballa reacts to ongoing violence in Jenin refugee camp

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“Once again, it is not the first, and unfortunately, I fear, it will not be the last time, we are witnessing a military operation in northern Samaria, in the Jenin Refugee Camp, intent on striking some cells of Palestinian resistance, armed resistance.”

With these words, Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa, in an interview with Vatican News, describes the violence that broke out in Jenin, after the sudden Israeli military operation that began Monday.

“We know that these are temporary solutions,” the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem warns. “Cells will continually resurface, and until the structural problems are resolved, especially that pertaining to the dignity, freedom and self-determination, of the Palestinian people with its own State, these temporary, painful situations, with many victims, will continue on both sides.”

A note also issued by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem states that the Israeli army’s assault on Jenin represents an “unprecedented” aggression, with “barbaric acts” that also destroy sacred places and annihilate people who are eager and deserving of a dignified life.

The text speaks of an “Israeli aggression” during which, it adds, the local Church and Church community was also hit. The communiqué concludes with a plea for an immediate ceasefire and an end to “unjustified crimes.”

Operation in Jenin

About three thousand Palestinians have fled the Jenin Refugee Camp in the northern West Bank as a result of the Israeli military operation. At least twelve Palestinians were killed, apparently all very young, between 16 and 23 years old, four probably under 18, all militants, according to agencies.

The Palestinian Health Ministry also reported that at least 120 people were wounded in the operation, which has been going on for more than two days, of whom at least 20 are in a serious condition. Again, according to the Israeli army, all are linked to militias.

The streets of the city, adjacent to the refugee camp, are filled with rubble after drone strikes and damage to shops has been reported. Columns of smoke have been seen on the horizon, while the camp is without water and electricity. Military vehicles are still in the streets and, explained Jenin’s Mayor, Nidal Al-Obeidi, those who fled have found accommodation in relatives’ homes and shelters.

The operation in Jenin, according to Israel, was directed against “terrorist infrastructure” where attacks were planned, used as weapons depots and as shelters by militiamen involved in attacks.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad urged Palestinians to join the Jenin militia’s fight against Israeli military operations.

Hamas claims an attack in Tel Aviv

This is the largest Israeli military operation in the West Bank since the second revolt, in the early 2000s, when Jenin was one of the hotbeds of Palestinian military activity. At this time, hundreds of soldiers are patrolling the area, seizing weapons and blowing up tunnels used by suspected militiamen, while in Tel Aviv, a car ploughed into pedestrians injuring seven people, three of them seriously.

The action was claimed by Hamas, which spoke of a “heroic attack” as the “first response to the crimes of the occupation” against the people in Jenin. Throughout the West Bank, meanwhile, Palestinians observed a general strike in protest against the operation.

Parish Priest in Jenin: ‘a very difficult situation’

“These days negotiations between the two sides are almost non-existent,” Father Labib Deibes, parish priest in Jenin, told Vatican News.

“We, in the last 24 hours, have experienced difficult times, something very similar to a war: explosions, planes, tanks, all against the Palestinian people, that is, against some young people who have the right to defend their land. The situation has been very difficult,” he added, wishing “the Palestinian people to regain all their rights and to live in peace in their land.”

“We want to help the inhabitants of Jenin, first with money to repair the destruction that has taken place, and then by doing everything possible so that the Palestinian people regain all their rights, after we have regained them we will no longer need foreign aid and we will be able to live happy and free,” said Father Deibes, who recalled how the Palestinian people, “have always lived thanks to aid, but we do not want handouts, we want our rights and if we take our rights we can live and provide for our livelihood on our own.”

“I ask the international community,” he appealed, “to find a solution to this conflict that has lasted 75 years.”

Condemnation by the UN and Doctors Without Borders

Palestinian National Authority President Mahmud Abbas called on the UN and the international community “to intervene urgently to force Israel to stop the evacuation of the inhabitants.”

The spokeswoman for the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs, Vanessa Huguenin, said she was alarmed by “the scale of operations by air and land” and “the shelling of a densely populated refugee camp.”

The NGO Doctors Without Borders laments of impediments in health care, with roads blocked and ambulances rammed by armoured vehicles.

“The operation has already achieved most of its objectives and with less resistance or minor complications than intelligence had predicted,” said the Israel Defence Forces spokesman, and “could end in a matter of days, well ahead of schedule.”