RAMALLAH: The killing of 13 Palestinians — 10 of them civilians — in an Israeli air raid on Gaza on Tuesday sparked outrage and widespread condemnation in the West Bank.
A comprehensive strike was observed in the town of Arraba, near Jenin, in protest of the assassination in Gaza of three Islamic Jihad leaders and their families.
Arraba is the birthplace of Tariq Ezz El-Din, one of the commanders killed in the attack.
Palestinian Premier Mohammad Shtayyeh ordered an immediate dispatch of medical aid to the Gaza Strip, while the Palestinian Foreign Ministry called for international intervention to pressure Israel to stop targeting Palestinians.
Shtayyeh said: “The aggression against our people in the Gaza Strip is organized state terrorism, and an attempt to export the internal crisis that the extremist government of Israel is facing, and a practical translation of the doctrine of killing, arson and genocide, which those in power in Israel have long professed.
“The aggression against the strip is an extension of the catastrophe that befell our people in 1948, and the continuous aggression against cities, towns, villages, and camps in the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem, the latest of which was the storming of the city of Nablus.”
Shtayyeh described the raid as part of a “systematic policy aimed at terrorizing our people to discourage them from continuing their struggle to obtain their legitimate rights — foremost among them is their right to self-determination and the establishment of their independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.”
He called on the UN, which is preparing to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Nakba for the first time in its history, to condemn the aggression against Gaza and “the continuous massacres of our people,” to unify standards in dealing with crimes committed by Israeli leaders and to not allow them to escape punishment.
Mustafa Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative Party, told Arab News that the assassinations in Gaza “would lead to an escalation of resistance in the West Bank.”
Islamic Jihad’s response “will not be limited to Israel in the Gaza Strip, but may include the West Bank, Jerusalem and other places such as Lebanon and Syria,” he said, adding that Hamas would take part in the response through the so-called joint operations room in Gaza.
Barghouti said that Israel aimed to “crush all forms of Palestinian resistance” in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
“The extreme right-wing government is seeking to create a Palestinian situation that would allow Israel to continue its Judaization project and annex Palestinian lands without resistance,” he added.
Palestinian sources told Arab News that Israel’s heightened violence against civilians might lead to an escalation of tensions in the West Bank, with Palestinian security services discussing the potential for violence.
Ismat Mansour, an expert on Israeli affairs, told Arab News that Islamic Jihad will stage a response, “but the nature of its response will not break the game’s rules and exceed a distance of 40 km.”
Mansour added that the participation of resistance fighters from Lebanon or Syria “depends on the involvement of Hamas in Islamic Jihad’s response.”
However, Mansour said that Hamas would avoid total escalation against Israel that would lead to an all-out war, the destruction of its infrastructure and the suffering of Gazans.
“Islamic Jihad is obliged to respond to establish the equation of deterrence and save face,” Mansour said, adding that despite Egypt’s anger against the Israeli action, “it will not allow the Islamic Jihad’s response to break the rules and reach the stage of no return.”
Prominent Palestinian political analyst Ghassan Al-Khatib told Arab News that the Israeli strike on Islamic Jihad leaders was expected given that the movement claimed responsibility for firing dozens of rockets into Israel over a week ago.
But he added that the assassinations would fail to affect the strength of the armed organization. Israel ordered the attack as a means of deterrence against militant Palestinian organizations, Al-Khatib said.