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Israel stages a large-scale raid on a Palestinian camp in the West Bank


Israel launched a military campaign in a small area of the occupied West Bank. Aircraft and troops have hit the Jenin refugee camp. It's a hub of Palestinian militant activity and also the home of well over 10,000 people who live on a crowded patch of land. Officials say at least eight Palestinians have been killed in Jenin and dozens wounded. NPR's Daniel Estrin is covering this story. Hey there, Daniel.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What exactly is the Israeli military doing?

ESTRIN: It is - it's a combination of lethal airstrikes and ground troops. And this is a sort of a firepower that we've not seen since the days of the second Palestinian uprising more than a decade ago. It started with Israeli drone fire striking, killing three Palestinians. And then hundreds of ground troops entered the Jenin refugee camp. And this has been an ongoing campaign now for more than 12 hours. We've seen bulldozers tear up a street, crumpling cars. So these are unprecedented things that we haven't seen in more than a decade. There are troops now going door to door trying to collect weapons. There's been exchanges of gunfire. And Israel says its objective is to go after the West Bank's No. 1 hub of Palestinian militant activity. There has been a spike in violence in recent weeks.

INSKEEP: Well, what are some of the events that have led up to this?

ESTRIN: Steve, we've seen more than a year of almost nightly Israeli military raids in the West Bank. Israel says it's responding to a spate of deadly Palestinian attacks on Israelis. In this period, we've seen the highest death toll of both Palestinians and Israelis in this area in years. Civilians also have been affected. And we see, you know - you take the sort of bird's-eye view, on the leadership level, the Western-backed Palestinian security forces have become ineffective in many areas. And so militants are filling the vacuum.

They're growing stronger. They are increasing their use of roadside bombs, even rudimentary rockets. Soldiers on the Israeli side have been wounded. Settlers, Israeli civilians, have been killed. So these are new developments. And Israel's far right has unprecedented power in Israel. And they are pressuring now - there's a lot of public pressure to go after militants in the West Bank, to intensify a campaign. And so we are seeing an intensified campaign now.

INSKEEP: Well, what is the Israeli military saying their plans are?

ESTRIN: At the moment, the Israeli military is saying that this is very pinpointed. The army has told me this could last from hours to even days. And Israel's message, we heard it today from the foreign minister, Eli Cohen. Let's hear him.


ELI COHEN: Our goal is to focus in Jenin. And our goal is to focus only on the terrorists themselves.

ESTRIN: So the message is, this is something very focused at this point. It's not, you know, I would say, a major offensive like we saw in the - about 20 years ago - 10, 15 years ago - in the occupied West Bank. This is not a war, but it could escalate. If militants in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria start firing rockets, that could open a multi-front campaign. If Palestinian civilians are killed, that could also intensify the violence. And you can't ignore, Steve, that the Israeli government now is made up by hawkish members pressuring to take more strident action against Palestinian militants. And so this is a very slippery slope. And it could escalate from here.

INSKEEP: Complicated situation, and NPR's Daniel Estrin is there. Daniel, thanks as always for your insights.

ESTRIN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.