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Jenin residents begin picking up pieces after Israeli forces end raid

A layer of black ash coated swaths of the area after airstrikes and hundreds of troops were sent to crack down on Palestinian militants following a series of attacks on Israelis.
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JENIN, West Bank — Residents of the Jenin refugee camp were picking up the pieces Thursday after the biggest incursion by Israel’s military into the occupied West Bank in two decades.

A thin layer of black ash coated large swaths of the area after Israel launched airstrikes and sent hundreds of troops into Jenin to crack down on Palestinian militants and destroy weapons following a series of attacks on Israelis.

After the two-day offensive, power lines were down, homes burned out, cars destroyed, narrow roads obliterated and walls pockmarked with bullets across the densely populated area that is home to some 15,000 people.

As the sun set Wednesday night, masked men, clad in black, wandered the area, long a hotbed of militancy in the northern West Bank, with their weapons on display. Other young men also wore black in a show of solidarity.

Some feared more raids after the offensive launched Monday left 12 Palestinians dead. By Friday, Islamic Jihad had claimed eight of the fatalities as its fighters. Hamas had claimed another, according to Reuters. Israeli officials said as far as they were aware, no civilians had been killed.

One Israeli soldier was killed.

Abdel Salam Mar’i at his home in the Jenin refugee camp Wednesday.
Abdel Salam Mar’i at his home in the Jenin refugee camp Wednesday.Matt Bradley / NBC News

Among those picking up the pieces were Abdel Salam Mar’i, who told NBC News that his home had been “completely destroyed” by dynamite and incendiary missiles.

“The entire house is gone,” he said, adding that it was now uninhabitable for his family of eight.

The 60-year-old construction worker said that on Monday he had “received a message that they were going to bomb the house,” so he scooped up his relatives and fled “alongside our neighbors.”

He said he returned to find a blacked out shell. Only the painting of the Palestinian flag on the outer wall had survived.

The raid followed months of intensifying troop incursions into the West Bank as Israel's far-right government faces domestic pressure to crack down after a spate of militant attacks.

Israeli forces routinely conduct raids in the occupied West Bank.

While Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose government administers parts of the West Bank, has rejected violence against Israelis, he has effectively lost control over several armed strongholds, including Jenin.

Videos posted on social media appeared to show angry residents of Jenin hurling stones at the Palestinian Authority police headquarters after the Israeli military’s withdrawal.

Some attendees at mass funerals for Palestinians killed in the raid also booed representatives from the authority while chanting their support for a local militant group, according to The Associated Press.

The withdrawal of troops from the camp ended an intense two-day operation that killed at least 13 Palestinians, drove thousands of people from their homes and left a wide swath of damage in its wake. One Israeli soldier was also killed.
A Palestinian woman walks on a damaged road in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank on Wednesday after the Israeli army withdrew its forces. Majdi Mohammed / AP

Calling the operation “horrific,” Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the U.N., told reporters at the organization’s headquarters in New York that there were reports that 80% of dwellings in the refugee camp were either destroyed or damaged, according to the AP.

NBC News could not independently verify his claim.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that his forces had wrapped up a “comprehensive action against the terrorist enclave” and that similar missions would take place in the future.

“Jenin was to be a safe haven. It no longer is a safe haven,” he said. “This is just the first step. It’s by no means the last action that we will take.”

At the request of the United Arab Emirates, the U.N. Security Council has scheduled closed consultations on the Jenin raid for Friday.

Over 112 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank in the first five months of the year, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Palestinian attacks targeting Israelis have killed at least 25 people, including four settlers killed in a shooting last month.

Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war, although Hamas militants now control Gaza. The Palestinians seek those territories for their hoped-for independent state.