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Israel says it's ending its largest West Bank offensive in years

Residents of the Jenin refugee camp fled their homes as the Israeli military pressed ahead with an operation in the area, in Jenin, West Bank, Tuesday. Palestinian health officials put the Palestinian death toll from the two-day raid at 10. The Israeli military said Israel launched the operation because some 50 attacks over the past year had emanated from Jenin.
Majdi Mohammed
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AP
Residents of the Jenin refugee camp fled their homes as the Israeli military pressed ahead with an operation in the area, in Jenin, West Bank, Tuesday. Palestinian health officials put the Palestinian death toll from the two-day raid at 10. The Israeli military said Israel launched the operation because some 50 attacks over the past year had emanated from Jenin.

Updated July 4, 2023 at 6:47 PM ET

TEL AVIV — The Israeli military said late Tuesday it was beginning to withdraw troops from the the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank.

"Because we obtained most of our goals in, uh, the next hours, I guess we'll finish, the operation," said Chief military spokesman Daniel Hagari. "This chapter will end."

There were still reports of ongoing gun battles along with signs of Israeli vehicles on the move out.

More than 1,000 Israeli troops have been operating in the camp since early Monday. Israel said it was targeting a militant hub inside the camp. Palestinian officials say at least 12 Palestinians have been killed - Israel claims at least 10 were militants - and 100 injured. There's been extensive damage to services in the crowded district as Israeli troops dug up roads they said militants had seeded with explosives.

As much as a quarter of the Palestinian population of the refugee camp - thousands of people - has fled the Israeli offensive there, the United Nations estimates.

Meanwhile in Israel Tuesday, there was a Palestinian car ramming and stabbing attack in an upscale area of Tel Aviv that wounded at least eight people. The Hamas militant group claimed responsibility.

Israeli police say the Palestinian driver, identified by local media as a 20-year-old man from a West Bank village near Hebron, rammed his vehicle into pedestrians at an outside shopping center, then exited the car and stabbed people with a sharp object. Paramedics say an Israeli civilian shot and killed him.

"Whoever thinks an attack like this will deter us from continuing our battle against terror is mistaken," said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The spike in violence came amid more than a year of near-daily Israeli raids in the West Bank, which is under Israeli occupation. Israel says it's targeting a new wave of militants who have attacked Israelis. But many Palestinian civilians have been killed. The Associated Press counts more than 130 Palestinians killed since the start of 2023 while some 24 people have died in Palestinian attacks aimed at Israelis.

The attack on Jenin launched Monday is one Israel's largest in the West Bank in more than a decade. Israel says it has launched some 20 drone airstrikes, confiscated weapons, dismantled explosives factories, and detained dozens of people.

Israeli soldiers drive an APC out of the occupied West Bank city of Jenin, during an Israeli military raid of the Jenin refugee camp where Israel says there is a militant stronghold, Tuesday.
Ariel Schalit / AP
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AP
Israeli soldiers drive an APC out of the occupied West Bank city of Jenin, during an Israeli military raid of the Jenin refugee camp where Israel says there is a militant stronghold, Tuesday.

As Israeli bulldozers dug up roads, they left only one road usable for ambulances to evacuate the wounded, Jenin government hospital director Dr. Wissam Bakr said.

The scene at the Jenin government hospital next to the refugee camp was frantic. Medics say Israeli troops were firing tear gas at the entrance of the hospital, as young men threw rocks and rudimentary explosives at Israeli forces. Bandaged young men with various injuries sat on the hospital floor and families sought shelter in the hospital courtyard and nearby streets.

Palestinians carry a wounded man shot by Israeli fire shortly after he threw a bomb toward an Israeli army vehicle during a military raid in the Jenin refugee camp, a militant stronghold in the occupied West Bank, Tuesday.
Majdi Mohammed / AP
/
AP
Palestinians carry a wounded man shot by Israeli fire shortly after he threw a bomb toward an Israeli army vehicle during a military raid in the Jenin refugee camp, a militant stronghold in the occupied West Bank, Tuesday.

"You can hear it, I think, yes?" said a hospital nurse in an interview with NPR, as loud shots rang outside the hospital. He gave only his first name, Nawras.

United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator Lynn Hastings says between 3,000 and 6,000 Palestinians have fled the area of fighting. That's up to a quarter of the Jenin refugee camp's total population, which the U.N. estimates at around 24,000. Water and electricity supplies were cut for most of the camp due to infrastructure damaged by the military operation, she said.

"Some medical staff are assuming great risks and walking into the Jenin camp to help. Humanitarian staff and ambulances must be allowed into the camp, and electricity and drinking water restored," Hastings said.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.