In Jenin, a family mourns teenage son as militants hail ‘martyr’

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Jenin (Reuters) – The family of 16-year-old Noureddin Marshoud wept over his body as it laid in a morgue in Jenin on Tuesday, after he was killed during an Israeli military operation in the occupied West Bank.

Marshoud was named by the militant Islamic Jihad group as one of four of its members killed on Monday during Israel’s assault in Jenin refugee camp.

Grieving relatives stroked his face as his body laid wrapped in a shroud at a nearby hospital.

Marshoud’s father, Hussam, said the last time he saw his son, he had been rushing to the hospital after hearing that a friend had been injured. “He was saying: ‘I want to go to the hospital …’ I had a feeling that something would happen.”

At least 11 Palestinians have been killed during Israel’s operation that began on Monday, one of its biggest in the West Bank in years. Several of the dead were reported to be in their teens: the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad said that alongside Marshoud, fighters aged 17, 18, and 19 were killed.

Their ages underline the youth of many of those caught up in spiralling violence in the West Bank areas such as Jenin, where jobs are hard to find and hopes for the future have been dimmed by the bleak outlook for the moribund peace process.

Israel says the operation aimed to destroy infrastructure and weapons of militant groups at the camp, where some 14,000 people live in cramped alleyways that have long been a stronghold of Palestinian armed groups.

Israel says there have been about 50 shooting attacks on Israelis since the start of the year by people from the Jenin area. The Israeli military has said it had confirmation of nine Palestinians killed by its forces, saying all were combatants.

Hamas, the Islamist group that governs the Gaza Strip, says one of its members was killed. There was no immediate confirmation from Palestinian sources as to whether the other six fatalities – including males aged 17 to 23 – were combatants or civilians.

The deaths add to the toll of a wave of violence that has cost the lives of more than 190 Palestinians, including both fighters and civilians, and 25 Israelis and foreigners since the start of the year.

Stranded Amid Violence

Jenin refugee camp has emerged as a flashpoint during a wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence, with deadly confrontations a regular occurrence.

The camp was also 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 the camp, part of a wider West Bank operation which Israel said aimed to stop militant attacks including suicide bombings which killed hundreds of Israelis.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said it had evacuated 500 families, or around 3,000 people, from the camp in the latest assault, which involved hundreds of Israeli troops and drones.

Jamal Hamdan held his sister’s hand as they walked quickly out of the camp on Tuesday morning during a lull in the violence. “I came yesterday evening to take my sister to my home, but we were stuck,” he said.

Residents of the camp took stock of the damage including roads which had been badly damaged by bulldozers.

U.N. aid agencies voiced alarm at the scale of the Israeli operation. A spokesperson for the U.N. humanitarian office said damage to infrastructure caused by air strikes had cut off most of the water and electricity at the camp.

Fearing for his family’s safety, Jihad Hassan said he fled his home after his neighbour’s house was hit, wounding his son in the leg.

“We are waiting to return to our home. It is something, when a person is forced to leave their home,” said Hassan, 63, speaking at the hospital where his son was being treated.

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