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An Israeli military raid on a Palestinian refugee camp left 9 people dead

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

A military raid in the occupied West Bank killed several Palestinians in the deadliest Israeli operation there in years. Palestinian officials say at least nine people were killed, including several militants, but also a woman in her 60s. This comes after months of other similar raids and battles with militant groups, often leading to civilian deaths. In response, the Palestinian Authority said it was cutting off the usual cooperation between its police and Israeli forces. NPR's Daniel Estrin has been covering this wave of violence. He's in Tel Aviv. Hi, Daniel.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Describe where exactly this took place.

ESTRIN: This happened deep inside the Jenin refugee camp. It's a crowded neighborhood of cement buildings, a hub for Palestinian militant groups. It's also where Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed in an Israeli raid last year.

SHAPIRO: And how exactly did this play out? What happened?

ESTRIN: Israeli troops came in undercover this morning. They say they were going after militants who were planning an imminent attack in Israel. The army says its troops came under fire, and they opened fire and ended up killing at least six armed Palestinian men. Palestinian officials say a 61-year-old woman was also killed, and dozens were wounded as well. I spoke to a Palestinian paramedic who was on the scene, Khalid al-Ahmad (ph), and here's what he said.

KHALID AL-AHMAD: (Non-English language spoken).

ESTRIN: He said it was a ghost town. It was a city of fear. It was a city of horror. It was a real, real war. He said he saw people on the ground with various kinds of wounds and that it took a while for Israel to even allow paramedics to access the site. And all in all, Ari, this was the single deadliest Israeli operation in the West Bank since the United Nations started tracking casualties in 2005.

SHAPIRO: You've been covering the increasing violence in the West Bank for nearly a year. What is driving this?

ESTRIN: Well, last year, there were Palestinian attacks on Israelis. And so Israel embarked on a campaign in the West Bank nearly 10 months ago to arrest militants and to confiscate weapons. And this has been going on ever since. Almost every single day, troops have entered Palestinian areas and killed Palestinians - gunmen, but also children who throw stones at troops and also uninvolved civilians, like Shireen Abu Akleh, the Palestinian American journalist we mentioned.

So where all of this is headed right now is unclear. Palestinian leaders have lost a ton of legitimacy among their own people, and so gunmen are filling the void in the West Bank. Now, with today's raid, there is concern of more violence, and then you have a new far-right government in Israel, which wants a tougher line on Palestinians. You know, usually, there is ongoing communication between Israeli and Palestinian security forces to keep a lid on things in the West Bank - to keep the peace. But today, the Palestinian Authority announced it was suspending its cooperation with Israeli forces, which they have done also in the past.

SHAPIRO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is headed to the region. He'll be there early next week. How is the U.S. likely to address this?

ESTRIN: Well, we heard today from Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Barbara Leaf, who says U.S. officials have been working the phones with Israeli and Palestinian officials, trying to deescalate the situation. They don't want the Palestinians to end their security cooperation with Israeli security. And, you know, Secretary of State Blinken - his trip was planned in advance, before what happened today. He was coming to reach agreements with Israel's new far-right government on things like what they're going to do in the West Bank with Jewish settlements. The Israeli government wants to expand settlements. The U.S. opposes that. But now, Ari, this has just become much more of an emergency situation for the U.S.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Daniel Estrin in Tel Aviv. Thank you very much.

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

Daniel Estrin
Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.
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