Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Condemns Israeli Military Action

The July 3 and July 4 attack on the Jenin camp, which is home to about 11,000 Palestinians, was the largest Israeli offensive on the West Bank since the early 2000s.

Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa
Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa (photo: Cristian Gennari / OESSH via CNA)

The Latin patriarch of Jerusalem condemned the Israeli government and urged peace and dialogue between both sides after the Israel Defense Forces launched air and ground attacks on the Jenin refugee camp in the Palestinian West Bank.

IDF soldiers conducted a 48-hour military campaign starting on Monday, July 3, which was meant to destroy “terrorist infrastructure,” according to an IDF statement

The strikes killed at least 12 people, including five minors. More than 100 others were hospitalized and at least 20 are in critical condition. The military offensive also destroyed homes, buildings and roads throughout the camp and took out the water supply and the electricity grid in most of the camp. Thousands of Palestinians fled the attack.

Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who has jurisdiction over Roman Rite Catholics in Israel, Palestine and Jordan, condemned the military operation and bemoaned the damage to the Roman Catholic parish in Jenin.

“In the past two days, the city of Jenin has been subject to unprecedented Israeli aggression, which also caused a lot of damage to our Latin parish in Jenin,” the patriarch said in a statement on Twitter. “We condemn this violence, demand a ceasefire, and hope for the pursuit of peace and dialogue to prevent other future unjustified attacks on the population.”

Doctors Without Borders, which is providing medical assistance to people who were injured, reported that many of the injuries include gunshot and shrapnel wounds. The organization also said the destruction of roads is making it difficult to provide care and accused the IDF of firing tear gas into a hospital, making it inoperable on the evening of July 4. 

“The Emergency Room is not usable right now; it's completely filled with smoke, as is the rest of the hospital,” the statement read. “People who need treatment can't be treated in the ER and we have to treat the wounded in the main hall on the floor.”

The July 3 and July 4 attack on the Jenin camp, which is home to about 11,000 Palestinians, was the largest Israeli offensive on the West Bank since the early 2000s.

According to the IDF, the camp is surrounded by improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which “target IDF vehicles and innocent bystanders.” The IDF used specially designed bulldozers to destroy the IEDs. The IDF also said it confiscated other weapons which it said would be used to attack Israeli civilians. 

The IDF also claimed it was fighting “heavily-armed terrorist groups” and that no noncombatants were killed during the raid.

“When we say we make every effort to protect civilians [and] only target terrorists — we mean it,” an IDF statement following the attacks read.

U.N. Human Rights Chief Volker Türk said in a statement that “the use of repeated airstrikes, along with the destruction of property, raises a host of serious issues with respect to international human rights norms and standards, including protecting and respecting the right to life.” He added that the use of air strikes is not consistent with international laws regarding law enforcement operations. 

“In a context of occupation, the deaths resulting from such airstrikes may also amount to wilful killings,” Türk said. “Israeli forces operations in the occupied West Bank need to abide by international human rights standards on the use of force; these standards do not change simply because the goal of the operation is stated as ‘counter-terrorism.’”

The camp was created in 1953 to shelter Palestinians who were displaced following the 1948 Palestine war that resulted in the creation of the State of Israel and forced most Palestinians into the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The war displaced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. Both regions are currently occupied by Israel, which does not recognize their independent statehood.

Patriarch Pizzaballa said in an interview with Vatican News that he fears more attacks in the region and argued that the violence from the IDF and Palestinian militants will likely continue as long as Palestinian land is under Israeli occupation.

“We know that these [attacks] are temporary solutions,” Patriach Pizzabala said. “Cells [of armed Palestinian resistance] will continually resurface, and until the structural problems are resolved, especially that pertaining to the dignity, freedom and self-determination, of the Palestinian people with its own state, these temporary, painful situations, with many victims, will continue on both sides.”

On several occasions in recent years, Pope Francis has urged both sides to reach a deal on a two-state solution. The Vatican signed a treaty with Palestine in 2015, which was the first time the Vatican recognized Palestine as an independent state.