Israel hits Bethlehem in Christmas raids on occupied West Bank

Jenin, commonly viewed as a symbol of Palestinian resistance to occupation, has been repeatedly targeted by Israeli forces since its war with Hamas in Gaza began on October 7.

On Monday, the Jenin-based Freedom Theatre, a popular symbol of peace and hope that was recently raided and vandalised by Israeli soldiers, described how Israeli forces lit up the sky “with flare bombs” whilst raiding the camp.

Reporting from the Jenin refugee camp, Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan said that the Israeli army raided at least 10 houses saying they were looking for Palestinians to arrest. However, no detentions were made.

“Israeli forces did call for Palestinian fighters to come out and give themselves up but that didn’t happen either. Residents are telling us that this is simply a campaign of harassment,” Khan said.

“Jenin refugee camp is now the most raided camp in the occupied West Bank. The Israeli forces are destroying any symbol of resistance or nationalism in the camp.”

While the raids in the camp and Jenin region have now reportedly ended, at least nine young men were arrested in the al-Jalama village, northeast of Jenin.

Regions in and near Nablus, Jericho, Ramallah and Bethlehem – which Christians believe is the birthplace of Jesus Christ – were also raided overnight by Israeli forces, Al Jazeera’s Hamdah Salhut reported.

In the village of Burqa, northwest of the city of Nablus in the occupied West Bank, Israeli forces arrested at least 20 people, including senior citizens.

Moreover, Palestinian news agency Wafa said that a 17-year-old boy was injured after he was hit in the neck when Israeli forces fired live ammunition during a raid in the town of Aqaba, north of Tubas.

Wafa reported that Israeli forces also arrested another resident of Tubas before withdrawing from the town.

Increased violence in the occupied West Bank

The West Bank has seen surging violence and arrests in parallel to Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip which has killed more than 20,000 Palestinians.

Israel says it is targeting Hamas in Gaza, but the violence in the West Bank is taking place despite Hamas having limited presence in the territory.

Rights groups, Palestinians, and some in the international community have slammed Israel for not doing enough to stop settler violence.

Earlier this month, countries like Belgium and the United States announced they would impose visa restrictions on “extremist” Israeli settlers involved in undermining peace, security or stability in the occupied West Bank.

At a cabinet meeting on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government ratified a decision to assign $21m to support new settlements in the occupied West Bank.

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