Thousands of Palestinians protested Wednesday's raid by the Israeli army in Nablus

Thousands of Palestinians protested Wednesday's raid by the Israeli army in Nablus

Thousands of Palestinians protested Wednesday's Israeli army raid in Nábulus

Illustrative photo – A demonstrator waves his national flags while others burn tires during a protest against an Israeli military raid in the West Bank city of Nablus, along the border fence with Israel, east of Gaza City on February 22, 2023.

Jerusalem – Thousands of Palestinians protested in the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem on Thursday and into the night due to Wednesday's raid by the Israeli army against Palestinian militants. This is reported today by The Times of Israel server, according to which some clashed with Israeli security forces. The AP agency reported last night that the Israeli government approved the construction of another seven thousand housing units in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. This month, however, the government earned criticism from the West and “concern” from the UN Security Council over the legalization of nine settlements in the occupied West Bank.

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According to The Times of Israel, young Palestinians took to the streets on Thursday in Nablus, Hebron, Ramallah and East Jerusalem, among others. Larger demonstrations took place in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by the radical Palestinian movement Hamas, where some lit tires near the border. In Nablus, young men called for revenge and support for the Palestinian armed group Lion's Den, which was targeted in Wednesday's raid.

Eleven Palestinians, including three civilians, were killed and more than a hundred people were injured in the clashes in Nablus on Wednesday when the Israeli army attacked Palestinian militants. According to The Times of Israel, it was the largest number of dead in a raid in the West Bank since 2005, when the UN kept such statistics. Ten Palestinians, including an elderly woman, were killed in a similar attack in Janin on January 26. On Thursday morning, militants fired six missiles at Israel from the Gaza Strip, five of which were neutralized by Israel's anti-missile system and the sixth landed in an uninhabited area. In response, Israel shelled Hamas military facilities in the north of the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli army intensified raids in the West Bank about a year ago after several Palestinian terrorist attacks in which three dozen people were killed. It arrested 2,500 radicals, but also further increased tensions, as 170 Palestinians lost their lives in clashes last year and another six dozen this year, including several civilians.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is also exacerbated by the approval of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, where the Palestinians want to have their own state together with the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Israel seized these territories during the 1967 war, and while Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005 on the basis of peace agreements, it annexed East Jerusalem and continues to occupy the West Bank.

Settlement expansion is considered illegal by most of the international community, and many, including the current US government and UN Secretary-General António Guterres, see it as an obstacle to the peace process. In mid-February, the US and other countries criticized Benjamin Netanyahu's new government, which includes far-right and ultra-Orthodox parties and has been in office since the end of December, for legalizing nine Jewish settlements. In response, Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said that “the territory of Israel belongs to the Israeli people” and that he wants settlements “much more”.

“Each new settlement is another obstacle on the road to peace. All settlement activity is illegal under international law and must be stopped,” Guterres said this week. Already on Monday, the UN Security Council expressed “deep concern” about the approval of more settlements.

The Jerusalem Post wrote today that Israel's Civil Administration Council approved on Thursday a plan to build 7,287 housing units in Jewish settlements, last year it recognized 4,427 of them and 3,645 a year earlier. There are 500,000 Jewish settlers and roughly three million Palestinians living in the West Bank.