An Israeli raid into one of the tensest cities in the occupied West Bank erupted Monday into a massive firefight, leaving at least five Palestinians dead and dozens wounded as the Israeli military struggled to rescue troops under heavy fire.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health said of the five dead, two were in their teens and three in their 20s. At least 91 were wounded in the clashes, 23 of them in critical to severe condition, the ministry said. Eight Israeli troops were injured and successfully evacuated, according to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
Israeli Air Force attack helicopters opened fire from the skies over Jenin to help Israeli troops leave the city, the IDF said.
Hecht earlier said the soldiers were “not trapped” and had “moved to other protected vehicles involved in the extraction.”
He had noted at least five vehicles were stuck, adding: “It’s not looking good. It’s going to take a few hours. It’s going to be pretty harsh.”
It was the first time since the Second Intifada that Israeli helicopters had opened fire while evacuating wounded troops, Israel Army Radio reported. The Second Intifada – a major Palestinian uprising – ended in 2005.
The Jenin Brigade, a locally based militant group, said its fighters had fired at an Israeli helicopter, forcing it to retreat, and said they had managed to immobilize Israeli military vehicles with gunfire and ambushes.
The Palestinians killed included three people in their 20s, and two teens: Khalid Azam Asa’asa, 21, Qasam Faisal Abu Seriya, 29, Qais Majdi Adel Jabareen, 21, Ahmad Khaled Faysal Draghma, 19 and Ahmed Youssef Saqer, 15, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.
The Jenin Brigade, a Palestinian militant group associated with Islamic Jihad, claimed Jabereen and Seriya as fighters who died in the clashes.
Islamic Jihad also claimed Draghma as a member of its Toubas Brigade. Calling him a “heroic fighter,” Islamic Jihad said he died confronting occupation forces, a reference to Israeli troops. Social media video suggested that Draghma was shot while throwing stones at IDF forces.
Of those wounded, 23 are in critical to severe condition, the Palestinian health ministry said. A Palestinian girl also sustained a critical head injury, the ministry added.
Of the eight Israeli troops wounded, three are IDF soldiers and five are Israel Border Police officers. Three were moderately injured and five were lightly injured.
In a statement Sheba Medical Center said one of the injured in moderate condition is “being treated in a shock room by the medical teams at the emergency medicine center.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited some of the wounded troops later in the day, photos from the Government Press Office showed.
An Israeli military dog, Dago, suffered internal injuries in the raid and is being treated at the Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa, the hospital said.
The Israeli incursion also involved an undercover Israel Border Police unit called Yamas, Israel Police said Monday.
The IDF and Border Police said “a massive exchange of fire took place,” during the arrest operation.
They were attacked with gunfire and hurled explosive devices and responded with live fire, hitting people, the IDF said.
Hecht, the IDF spokesperson, said a Panther Command and Liaison Vehicle was hit by a “pretty advanced” improvised explosive device.
“The scale of the IED is an issue. We are still looking into it,” he said. “It’s pretty unusual and dramatic. It will affect how we do business.”
He said troops came under a “massive amount of gunfire” in addition to the explosives, but was unable to clarify exactly how the seven injured forces were hit, whether by the IED or other fire.
An Apache helicopter was used to fire on open areas to provide cover while some of the rescue operations were underway, Hecht said, adding that such tactic has not been used “in a long time.”
Videos from Jenin circulating on social media showed Israeli military vehicles coming under fire both on the ground and in the air.
One showed a military truck driving down the road with near-continuous cracking of gunfire before a burst of smoke erupts around it. Another showed several trucks sitting crosswise along a road with bullet damage to their front windows.
And a third showed a heavy armored Israeli truck attempting to tow a second one with a rope or cable. The lead vehicle revs its engine, apparently trying to drag the other vehicle around a parked car on a street, then reverses, pushing the following vehicle backwards, before rolling forward again with the second truck in tow. The sound of gunfire erupts as the two vehicles move up the road.
A video posted on Twitter by Army Radio showed a helicopter launching four projectiles, with white smoke trailing behind them as they clear the chopper. Another video circulating on social media showed what appeared to be the same helicopter with the sound of gunfire in the background.
Correction: A picture caption in an earlier version of this story misstated the devices fired by an Israeli military helicopter. The aircraft deployed flares.