Israel has withdrawn its forces from the Palestinian city of Jenin after carrying out one of its biggest military operations in the occupied West Bank for years.
Local media quoted the Israeli military spokesperson Daniel Hagari as saying all troops had left Jenin and that the operation was completed. Witnesses in Jenin reported seeing convoys of Israeli military vehicles leaving the city after dark.
As the troops left, Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired five rockets toward Israel in the early hours of Wednesday. They were intercepted with no immediate reports of casualties. Israel said its jets hit an underground weapons manufacturing facility in Gaza in response.
At dawn, the shell-shocked residents of Jenin’s refugee camp began the long, hard work of cleaning and repairing their homes, picking their way through the rubble and makeshift berms of earth.
Bulldozers tried to clear burnt-out cars, and cherrypickers lifted technicians up to pylons to try to restore the electricity grid.
The last smoking remains of burning tyres and skip fires were extinguished with hosepipes.
Masked men carrying M-16s and the flags of several different factions carried a body on a stretcher as fighters began to gather for the afternoon’s funerals. Chants could be heard, including: “How lucky is the mother of the martyr, I wish it was my mother and not you,” and: “Rest assured martyr, we will continue your struggle.”
Twelve Palestinians, at least five of them fighters, were killed in the Jenin operation, which the Israeli army said was aimed at destroying militant infrastructure and weapons in the Jenin refugee camp. As the army began the withdrawal, it announced that an Israeli soldier had been killed by live fire in Jenin.
Dozens of people, including civilians, were injured over the course of the raid, according to medics.
On Tuesday, the Palestinian health minister, Mai al-Kaila, accused the army of shooting at Palestinians in a courtyard of the Jenin public hospital.
“Israel’s aggression reached its climax this afternoon when citizens were shot at directly in the courtyard of Jenin hospital wounding three, two of them seriously,” the minister told reporters, adding that forces had also stormed the Ibn Sina hospital.
The Israeli army said there were reports on social media regarding fire by soldiers toward a hospital. “The reports are not currently known to security forces,” it said, adding that “terrorist organisations have exploited civilian areas as a hideout”.
The medical charity Doctors Without Borders also condemned Israeli forces for firing teargas inside Khalil Suleiman hospital in Jenin, calling it “unacceptable”.
The Palestinian foreign ministry labelled the escalation “open war against the people of Jenin”.
During a visit to an army base near Jenin, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, vowed to “uproot terrorism”.
“At this moment we are completing the mission, and I can say that our extensive activity in Jenin is not a one-time operation,” he said.
After troops had left, residents who had vacated the camp during the fighting began returning to its streets. The Palestinian Red Crescent said it had evacuated 500 families from the camp, about 3,000 people.
Power and water supplies remained cut off in the camp and in some areas of the city after bulldozers that ploughed up roads looking for improvised bombs cut cables and a main water pipe.
Israeli forces uncovered underground explosives caches, one concealed in a tunnel under a mosque, confiscated 1,000 weapons and arrested 30 suspects, the military said.
There was further escalation on Tuesday with a car-ramming and stabbing attack claimed by the Palestinian Hamas militant group in Israel’s business hub Tel Aviv, in which eight people were hurt.
The densely populated Jenin refugee camp, where 14,000 people live in less than half a square kilometre, has been one of the focal points of a wave of violence that has swept the West Bank for more than a year, drawing growing international alarm.
The UN human rights chief, Volker Türk, said “the killing, maiming and the destruction of property must stop”.
The UN security council said it would meet behind closed doors to discuss the situation, as requested by the United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain condemned the operation.
The US said its ally Israel had a right to “defend its people against … terrorist groups” but called for protection of civilians.
Many businesses across the West Bank closed on Tuesday in response to calls for a general strike to protest against the operation, which the Palestinian Authority has described as a “war crime