(Reuters) – Israeli forces hit the city of Jenin with drone strikes on Monday during one of the biggest incursions in the occupied West Bank in 20 years, killing at least eight people.

Here’s what you need to know about Jenin, a focal point of surging violence between Israel and the Palestinians:


A city in the north of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Jenin houses a crowded refugee camp by the same name with a population of some 14,000. They are descendants of Palestinians dispossessed when Israel was created in 1948, their families coming from areas including Haifa and Nazareth.

Jenin has one of the highest rates of unemployment and poverty among 19 refugee camps in the West Bank, according to UNRWA, a U.N. agency that delivers basic services to Palestinian refugees.


Jenin was the scene of some of the worst violence during the second Intifada, which began after the failure of U.S.-backed peace talks in 2000 and mushroomed into an armed conflict between Israel and Palestinian militant groups.

In 2002, Israel launched a major assault in Jenin refugee camp, part of a wider West Bank operation which Israel said aimed to stop militant attacks including suicide bombings.

A U.N. report issued in August, 2002, said 52 Palestinians died in Jenin, as many as half of them civilians, while Israel lost 23 soldiers there.

The report, which disputed a claim by the late Palestinian official Saeb Erekat that 500 people had been killed in Jenin, faulted all combatants for putting civilians in harms way.

The report listed more Israeli than Palestinian abuses, especially Israel’s refusal to let humanitarian workers enter the camp. But it also said Palestinian fighters were lodged in civilian homes.

More than 400 homes were destroyed in the operation and more than a quarter of the population was left homeless, according to UNRWA, which coordinated and implemented the reconstruction of the camp.


Jenin has emerged as a flashpoint during a wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence that has convulsed the West Bank for more than a year. Deadly confrontations in the area have been a regular occurrence.

Last month, Palestinian fighters and Israeli troops waged an hours-long gunbattle in Jenin in which six Palestinians were killed and more than 90 wounded. Seven Israeli personnel were wounded. Palestinian gunmen shot dead four Israelis near a Jewish settlement in retaliation, prompting settlers to attack Palestinians towns, torching buildings and cars.

In January, Israeli forces killed seven gunmen and two civilians in a raid in Jenin. The following day, a Palestinian gunman killed seven people in a synagogue on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

Several militant groups have a presence in Jenin, including the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad. The Islamist movement Hamas, which controls Gaza, and the armed wing of President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction also have a foothold. Militants in the camp operate under the umbrella of the Jenin Brigades.


Al Jazeera’s Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American journalist, was shot and killed while covering an Israeli army raid last year in Jenin.

Israel says Abu Akleh, who was wearing a clearly marked protective press vest and helmet, was likely unintentionally shot by an Israeli soldier but could also have been struck by Palestinian fire.

Abu Akleh’s family believes she was killed deliberately, and witnesses to the incident have said there were no Palestinian fighters firing in the area where she was standing.

(Compiled by Tom Perry; Editing by Christina Fincher)

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