Recent weeks have witnessed a surge in deadly violence in the West Bank as the Israeli military takes action against Palestinian militants in the aftermath of the Hamas attack from Gaza. During this period, more than 90 Palestinians have lost their lives in the Israeli-occupied territory, primarily in clashes with Israeli forces.
This surge in violence has the potential to open another front in the ongoing conflict and places additional pressure on the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority. This authority administers portions of the West Bank but faces widespread unpopularity among Palestinians due to its cooperation with Israel on security matters.
The toll of casualties includes six Palestinians who lost their lives in various incidents on a recent Sunday, including two individuals who perished in an airstrike on a mosque located in the volatile Jenin refugee camp. Israel’s justification for the airstrike was that the mosque was allegedly being used by militants. Another airstrike occurred during a battle in a different West Bank refugee camp last week, resulting in the deaths of 13 Palestinians, including five minors, as well as a member of Israel’s paramilitary Border Police.
It’s worth noting that Israel seldom deploys air power in the occupied West Bank, despite its use in the ongoing bombardment of Hamas-controlled Gaza since the militant group’s cross-border incursion on October 7.
The overall death toll in Israel since the conflict’s initiation exceeds 1,400 individuals, with the majority being civilians who tragically lost their lives during the initial Hamas assault. According to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza, over 4,300 Palestinians have perished.
In the West Bank, the Palestinian Health Ministry reports that 91 Palestinians have been killed since October 7. In the year leading up to the Hamas attack, 197 Palestinians lost their lives.
In addition to military operations, Palestinians have also been killed during anti-Israel protests marked by violence and, in some instances, by attacks from Jewish settlers.
In response to the Hamas assault, Israel swiftly tightened its control over the region, closing crossings and checkpoints between Palestinian communities. According to Israel, its security forces have detained over 700 suspects in the West Bank, including 480 Hamas members, since the conflict’s onset.
The recent resumption of aerial attacks by Israel, which reached a level of intensity in Jenin not seen since the Palestinian uprising against Israel two decades ago, suggests a shift in military tactics.
The Israeli military has described the Al-Ansar Mosque in Jenin as a militant compound linked to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, a smaller but more radical Palestinian militant group. They claim that these militants have conducted multiple attacks in recent months and were planning another imminent assault.
This escalation of violence follows more than a year of increasing raids and arrests in the West Bank and deadly Palestinian attacks on Israelis.
Israel took control of the West Bank, along with Gaza and east Jerusalem, during the 1967 war. The Palestinians aspire to have all three of these regions as part of a future state. However, over 500,000 Israelis reside in settlements across the West Bank, which are considered illegal by most of the international community. More than 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank live under Israeli military rule.
The settlements are viewed by Palestinians as the principal obstacle to resolving the conflict with Israel. The last significant peace negotiations, addressing substantive issues, broke down over a decade ago.
Settler violence against Palestinians has also increased since the Hamas attack. According to Palestinian authorities, at least five Palestinians have been killed by settlers, and human rights organizations report incidents of settlers torching vehicles and assaulting small Bedouin communities, leading to their evacuation to other areas.
The West Bank Protection Consortium, a coalition of non-governmental organizations and donor countries, including the European Union, has reported that at least 470 Palestinians in the West Bank have been forcibly displaced due to settler violence since October 7. This is in addition to the more than 1,100 who were displaced since 2022.