Earlier this week, Palestinians in the occupied West Bank witnessed the bloodiest and most violent Israeli military operation in recent memory. Over the course of 48 hours, Israeli land and air forces besieged the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank, killed 12 Palestinians, and wounded over a hundred others. For the first time since the Second Intifada in 2002, the people of Jenin refugee camp came under heavy aerial bombardment, and witnessed Israeli bulldozers wreak mass destruction on their roads and infrastructure.
While the city of Jenin, and the camp in particular, have been the subject of countless Israeli army raids over the past year targeting Palestinian resistance groups, the events of the past few weeks have witnessed a clear change in Israel’s military strategy in the city.
On June 19, Israeli forces deployed helicopters during a deadly raid on the camp and fired rockets towards a building in the refugee camp, marking the first use of helicopters in Jenin in more than 20 years. Just two days later, on the 21st of June, three Palestinian fighters were assassinated in a targeted airstrike on their vehicle outside Jenin. At the time, the use of helicopters and drone strikes caused alarm among Palestinians in Jenin, who feared it could mark a return to Israel’s military tactics of the Second Intifada, and the 2002 Battle of Jenin, when more than 50 Palestinians were killed inside the camp.
Just over two weeks later, on Monday July 3, the camp’s fears were realized. Over the course of the two-day invasion, Israel deployed everything from helicopters, drones, bulldozers, and thousands of ground troops. Residents also reported electricity and water outages.
Though Israeli military officials have tried to downplay the scale of the operation, the most recent raid marked a clear departure in Israel’s military strategy when it comes to raiding West Bank cities like Jenin, which usually features raids that last a few hours and are conducted by special forces on the ground. Many Palestinians and political analysts likened the events of the past few days to the way Israel operates in Gaza – a total siege, the constant humming of drones, and using airstrikes as its primary mode of destruction and killing.
And though the raid ended with both sides claiming victory, Israel has made it clear that this is not the end of its operations in Jenin, with Israeli media saying the next raid could happen in as little as just a few days.
So, is Israel moving towards a Gaza-type model in Jenin? And what will future raids look like in the city?
‘Mowing the lawn’
You’ve likely heard the term “mowing the lawn” or “mowing the grass,” most commonly associated with Israel’s military strategy in the Gaza Strip. The idea is that every few years, or months, Israel “weeds out” the growing capabilities of Palestinian militant groups in the strip. When military capabilities of groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are viewed as becoming too strong, or in many cases Israel needs to score a political win, it goes into Gaza, drops some bombs, and “mows the lawn.”
Amjad Iraqi, a member of the Palestinian think tank Al-Shabaka and senior editor at +972 magazine, says that this is the same policy Israel seems to be employing in Jenin.
“Israel doesn’t really have a full solution of what to do with Palestinian resistance. The only thing it can rely on is this doctrine of what it describes as ‘mowing the lawn’ or ‘mowing the grass’,” Iraqi told Mondoweiss on the second day of the army’s operation in Jenin.
“It’s this idea of just trying to constantly undercut or put a lid on Palestine militant groups when they get exceptionally active, as we’ve been seeing in the past few months especially,” he continued. “And that’s like you’re ‘cutting the grass’, just to keep stopping it from getting too long. And this is the only real strategy that they currently have in these West Bank cities.”