TEL AVIV, Israel — The Israeli military on Thursday carried out its deadliest operation in the occupied West Bank in years, killing at least nine Palestinians, including a woman in her 60s, according to Palestinian officials.
The Palestinian Authority condemned the raid, at a refugee camp in the city of Jenin, calling the killings a "massacre" and announcing it was cutting off the usual security coordination between Palestinian police and Israeli forces. That's a step it has taken in the past but it could increase the chances of further violence. The Palestinian Authority also said it hoped to take the matter to the United Nations Security Council.
The raid also drew condemnation from Middle Eastern governments, which warned of potential fallout in the region.
Thursday's violence was the latest in an ongoing campaign over nearly 10 months of almost daily and often deadly Israeli military incursions into Palestinian areas of the West Bank to arrest suspected militants and confiscate weapons.
A United Nations official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to refer to internal statistics, said it was the deadliest single operation in the West Bank since at least 2005, when the U.N. started counting casualties there.
An Israeli military spokesman said troops raided a home in the Jenin refugee camp to apprehend Islamic Jihad militants planning an imminent attack in Israel, and that the soldiers came under fire. The spokesman said at least six of those killed were armed men — including some who opened fire at troops and others who had tried to flee.
Palestinian social media users shared photos of a Palestinian dairy truck which they said Israeli undercover troops used to enter Jenin on Thursday morning without drawing attention. NPR has not confirmed this.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ordered three days of mourning with flags at half-staff, and called an urgent meeting of the Palestinian leadership. In a statement, presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh called it "a massacre carried out by the Israeli occupation government, in light of suspicious international silence."
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken already had a trip to the region scheduled for early next week. After the Jenin raid, Assistant Secretary of State for the Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf told reporters the U.S. was watching the events and urging both sides to de-escalate and calm the situation.
At least 29 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops in the West Bank this year, including the latest casualties Thursday. Last year, Israeli forces killed nearly 150 Palestinians in the West Bank, the highest number since 2004, including five women and 34 children, the youngest of them 12-years-old, according to Israeli human rights group B'Tselem.
"I am deeply alarmed and saddened by the continuing cycle of violence in the occupied West Bank. The deaths today of nine Palestinians, including militants and one woman, during an Israeli arrest operation in Jenin is another stark example," U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland said in a statement. "I urge, and remain actively engaged with, Israeli and Palestinian authorities to de-escalate tensions, restore calm, and avoid further conflict."
Arab countries warn of fallout
Arab governments from Oman to Egypt are condemning the raid, which was front-page on Arab news websites throughout the day.
Jordan and Egypt warned of repercussions that could ripple through the region, particularly in the absence of a peace process.
The United Arab Emirates, which is deepening ties with Israel, called on Israeli authorities to "reduce escalation and not take steps that exacerbate tension and instability in the region."
Israel's new far-right government poses a challenge to relations with Arab states, where the public remains supportive of Palestinian rights.
Qatar described Thursday's operation in Jenin as "brutal" and said it is part of a broader pattern of "heinous and horrific crimes" against Palestinians. It said Israel has become more reassured than ever of impunity. Saudi Arabia said it rejects "the serious violations of international law carried out by Israeli occupation forces."
As these countries condemned the attacks, people around the region were reacting to social media images purporting to show bloodied young Palestinian men shot in the raid and a nearby children's hospital Palestinian officials said was hit by Israeli tear gas.
Israel is considering deploying more of its Iron Dome anti-missile batteries in case militants retaliate with rockets from Gaza, an Israeli military spokesman said.
Aya Batrawy contributed reporting from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.