Palestinian militias assemble in Jenin after Gilboa threats
Palestinian militant groups in Jenin's refugee camp have formed a 'Joint Military Operations Room' amid warnings that Israel is preparing a ground operation within the camp, according to information sourced by Al Araby TV's West Bank correspondent.
The armed wings of Hamas, Fatah and Islamic Jihad are involved in the new initiative, which follows attempts by Israeli forces to clamp down on the refugee camp in the aftermath of the Gilboa prison escape.
Prior to their escape, five out of the six escapees had been members of the Islamic Jihad party. The sixth, Zakaria Zubeidi, is a former top commander of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a Fatah armed wing predominantly based in Jenin. Zubeidi had previously led a 15-day battle against Israeli troops back in 2002, in which at least 23 Israeli soldiers were killed.
This is the first official announcement of Hamas's armed wing, the Al Qassam Brigades, having a tangible physical presence within the West Bank.
Since the prison break and the subsequent re-capture of four of the six men, militants from the 0.42 sq kilometres refugee camp in Jenin have been targeting the Israeli checkpoint of Al Jalama, north of the camp.
Israeli politicians and commanders have been publicly talking about a potential military operation against Jenin, even prior to the six prison breakers had escaped. This rhetoric has only intensified after the saga.
The Israeli chief of general staff, Aviv Kochavi, threatened earlier this week to storm the refugee camp with heavy troops if the two remaining Palestinian fugitives continue to remain at large within the camp.
Kochavi told Israel's Channel 12 that Zubeidi had indicated during interrogation that Jenin was the escapees' planned destination.