June 14, 2024

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EU envoy tours Jenin refugee camp, says IDF operation violated international law

EU envoy tours Jenin refugee camp, says IDF operation violated international law

A European Union envoy criticized Israel Saturday over the “proportionality” of the force it used in its recent military operation in Jenin, and accused Jerusalem of violating international law, as envoys toured the refugee camp in the West Bank following this week’s raid.

His remarks echoed those of UN chief Antonio Guterres, who on Thursday told reporters “there was an excessive force used by Israeli forces” in its 48-hour operation, the largest Israel has staged in the Palestinian territory for years.

It included air strikes and armored bulldozers ripping up streets. Twelve Palestinians were killed, though Israel has asserted that all were combatants. Most have been claimed by terror groups. Some of the dozens of injured were non-combatants, the IDF said. One Israeli soldier was killed.

Jenin is a hotspot for the activities of multiple Palestinian terror groups, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called the refugee camp a “terrorist nest.”

European Union representative to the Palestinian territories Sven Kuehn von Burgsdorff made his comments as he led a delegation of UN officials and diplomats from 25 countries to the camp in the northern West Bank.

“We are concerned about the deployment of weaponry and weapons systems which question the proportionality of the military during the operation,” Kuehn von Burgsdorff said of the operation.

EU envoy tours Jenin refugee camp, says IDF operation violated international law

Members of an international delegation walk on a devastated road during a tour of the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, on July 8, 2023. (Zain Jaafar/AFP)

Burgsdorff told reporters that the “painful” raid violated international law and urged Israel to bring an end to the conflict.

“This cycle of violence has to end, it cannot continue. If there is no political solution to the conflict, we are going to stand here in a week’s time, in a month’s time, in a year’s time, with nothing changed,” he added.

As the delegation toured the camp, residents peered out of holes left in the walls by Israeli rockets, and local authorities tested a new camp-wide alarm system to warn of future raids.

Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have been high across the West Bank for the past year and a half, with the military carrying out near-nightly raids, amid a series of deadly Palestinian terror attacks.

Since the beginning of this year, Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank have killed 25 people.

According to a tally by The Times of Israel, 148 West Bank Palestinians have been killed during that time — most of them during clashes with security forces or while carrying out attacks, but some were uninvolved civilians and others were killed under unclear circumstances.

A convoy of army vehicles is seen during a military raid in the Jenin refugee camp, a militant stronghold, in the West Bank, July 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

UN plea for funds

The Jenin camp has been the site of several large-scale raids by the Israeli military this year, but this week’s was the biggest such operation in the West Bank since the Second Intifada of the early 2000s.

The camp’s infrastructure was severely damaged during the raid, which Israel said was targeting terrorists who have repeatedly launched attacks throughout the West Bank in recent months.

Eight kilometers (five miles) of water pipes and three kilometers (two miles) of sewage pipes were destroyed, the UN said. More than 100 houses were damaged and a number of schools were also lightly damaged.

The refugee camp is one of the poorest and most densely populated in the West Bank, with some 18,000 people living in just 0.43 square kilometers (0.16 of a square mile).

UN officials on Saturday made a plea for funds to help rebuild the camp.

“To restore services and scale up support to the children, we need cash… our appeal is desperately underfunded,” Leni Stenseth, deputy commissioner-general of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, said.

“I would urge you to consider announcing your support for the work we are going to do here in Jenin camp in the coming weeks and months as soon as possible,” she added.

On Thursday, Algeria announced $30 million to “help rebuild the Palestinian city of Jenin after the barbaric and criminal attack” by Israel, and the United Arab Emirates, which normalized ties with Israel in 2020, said Wednesday it “will provide $15 million.”

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