On January 30th, 2024, a group of undercover Israeli forces disguised as civilians and medical personnel raided the Ibn Sina hospital in Jenin, located in the occupied West Bank. In the ensuing firefight, 3 Palestinian militants were killed by the Israeli forces. The raid has sparked international condemnation and accusations that Israel violated international law.
Lead Up to the Raid
Tensions have been high in recent months between Israel and Palestinian militant groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) operating in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. There has been an increase in attacks against Israeli civilians and military personnel:
- On October 7th, 2023, a PIJ suicide bomber attacked a bus station in Tel Aviv, killing 12 Israeli civilians
- Throughout 2023, over 40 Israeli military personnel and civilians have been killed in various shooting and stabbing attacks originating from the West Bank
- Israel has conducted hundreds of arrest raids and military strikes within the West Bank and Gaza targeting militants and weapon caches
The Ibn Sina hospital in Jenin has previously treated injured Palestinian militants. Israel stated they received intelligence that a cell of 3 Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants were hiding in the hospital, possibly planning an imminent attack on Israeli civilians similar to the October 7th bus bombing.
Given the heightened tensions and history of housing militants, Israel decided to launch the covert raid targeting the cell.
Details of the Hospital Raid
In the early morning hours of January 30th, an elite Israeli special forces unit covertly entered Jenin in civilian vehicles. Some personnel were disguised as Palestinian women wearing hijabs and abayas. Others posed as medical teams, wearing scrubs and carrying fake medical equipment.
Around 6 AM, the undercover Israeli forces entered the Ibn Sina hospital, moving directly to the section housing the 3 Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants.
A firefight ensued between the militants and Israeli forces lasting nearly 10 minutes. All 3 militants were shot dead by the Israelis.
Video footage shows the undercover Israeli forces rushing out of the hospital following the shootout, still dressed in disguises, and evacuating in civilian vehicles back towards Israel.
In the chaos, one actual Palestinian civilian – a bystander – was accidentally shot and killed by Israeli forces.
At least 5 other Palestinian civilians and medical staff suffered injuries from stray gunfire or physical assault by the raiding Israeli personnel.
The entire covert operation, from initial infiltration to exfiltration, lasted approximately 25 minutes.
The raid has been met with widespread condemnation from Palestinian leadership, the international community, and human rights groups like Amnesty International:
- The Palestinian Health Ministry called the raid a war crime, stating “medical facilities should be safe zones even in war”
- UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres stated he was “deeply disturbed by the Israeli forces raid of Ibn Sina hospital resulting in fatalities and injuries”
- Human Rights Watch said the raid violated international humanitarian law protections for medical facilities and intruded on “the sanctity of health care”
- Critics point out that even if militants were being treated, Israel still had the obligation to use alternative means to apprehend them rather than jeopardizing hospital staff and patients
The Israeli government has defended its actions, stating it took proper precautions to safeguard civilian lives:
- Israel claims the 3 PIJ militants posed an active, imminent threat to Israeli civilians
- Elite, specialized forces were used to carry out the raid with surgical precision
- Forces took care to avoid civilian interference and casualties to the highest extent possible
Regardless, Israel’s position has done little to quell the swelling criticism from global leaders and humanitarian organizations in the aftermath of the operation.
What Comes Next?
It is likely the West Bank raid will lead to a resurgence in violence between Israeli forces and Palestinian militant groups in the coming weeks and months:
- Palestinian Islamic Jihad leadership has vowed retaliation, stating Israeli “crimes will have repercussions”
- Hamas, which controls Gaza, may also plan attacks in solidarity with the slain West Bank militants
- Israel will probably expand arrest raids and airstrikes targeting militants in the West Bank and Gaza
- An increase in rocket attacks originating from Gaza and shooting/stabbings in the West Bank against Israeli personnel and civilians is probable
There are worries the tensions could boil over into a full-scale armed conflict similar to the bloody 11 day Israel-Gaza war in May 2021, which killed over 240 Palestinians and 12 Israelis.
Both U.S. and Egyptian officials are attempting to mediate the tensions and proposing a ceasefire agreement between Israel and the militant groups. However, after the hospital raid, the chances of an imminent, lasting ceasefire look slim.
The Biden administration has firmly defended Israel’s right to self-defense from terrorism while advising restraint regarding civilian casualties. A U.N. Security Council emergency session has been requested to address the developments, but the U.S. will likely veto any binding resolutions or sanctions against Israel for the controversial raid.
In the meantime, civilians on both sides will continue bearing the brunt of the consequences as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains stuck in a cycle of violence even into 2024.
|October 7, 2023
|Palestinian Islamic Jihad suicide bombing of Tel Aviv bus station kills 12 Israelis
|January 30, 2024
|Elite undercover Israeli forces storm Ibn Sina Hospital in West Bank, kill 3 Palestinian militants
The Israeli hospital raid will likely lead to an increase in violence unless a ceasefire agreement can be brokered soon. But the chances of a long term, sustainable peace between Israelis and Palestinians remains slim given decades of bloody history since the formation of Israel in 1948.