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On The Ground In Jenin With The West Bank’s Resistance Fighters

‘They call us terrorists. Who planted terrorism? Wasn’t it they?’

‘As long as there is occupation there is no future for the people. There will be no future unless they let us live.’

Israel continues to unleash hell upon the 22-by-5-mile concentrated area of Gaza, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, with relentless airstrikes and indiscriminate bombings of hospitals, residential buildings, schools, and other civilian sites. As besieged Palestinians shelter and flee and die within the walls of their cage in Gaza, Resistance forces are mobilizing to rise up against an Occupation that has presided over lives for 75 years.

Where there is occupation, there is resistance, and numerous Palestinian resistance groups exist across the Occupied Territories. These groups consist of occupied subjects turned freedom fighters—those who have been directly targeted by Israel, who have witnessed their friends and families die at the hands of occupying forces, and who have been labeled “terrorists” for resisting their slow extermination. In Jenin, a 1km square ghetto-like refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, and the target of numerous Israeli incursions, there are many who have chosen the path of armed resistance, and many who felt they had no other choice.

For those who suffer under the direct oppression and daily practices of apartheid—including the suspension of human and civil rights, military-imposed blockades and checkpoints restricting people’s movements, the demolition of homes and killing of family members—there comes a breaking point. Generations of Palestinians, born into Occupation and violence, do not live a life of dignity. As they describe, under these conditions, they have nothing to live for and nothing to lose, and they have everything to fight for.

In July of this year, before the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attacks and Israel’s genocidal retaliatory offensive in Gaza, The Real News Network spoke to members of the community in Jenin refugee camp about their lives under Occupation, the role of the Resistance there, and the fight for freedom.

Transcript:

Narrator: Jenin, a Palestinian city in the northern West Bank of occupied Palestine. It’s home to 23,000 refugees all living in the ghetto-like area of less than one square kilometer.

In July this year, the camp was the scene of the largest military operation conducted by the Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank since the Second Intifada two decades earlier.

In 2002, Jenin was at the center of the bloody battles of the uprising which saw 52 Palestinians killed. and the city remains a hotbed of resistance.

Those children who lived and survived the violence of that period grew up knowing only a life of occupation.

They saw their friends and families killed and have now taken up the mantle of resistance.

The Real News Network spoke to Haniya Salameh, whose son Farouk was killed by the Israeli army just days before he was due to be married.

Haniya Salameh: What influenced my son, Farouk, and made him fight was when they [IDF] entered the house and brutally arrested his brother, Fadi.

They hurt Farouk — beat him, and insulted me. He was just seven years old when they destroyed the house.

Their terrible treatment of people is what instilled the anger and hatred in him.

During this uprising, his friend was killed. His best friend.

Before that, two other friends were killed: Al-Zubaidi and Al-Husari.

By the time his brother was released from prison, Farouk was finally a changed man.

They call us terrorists. Who planted ‘terrorism’ — wasn’t it they?

Farouk witnessed the invasions; he saw the injustice and fear.

As long as there is occupation, there is no future for the people.

There will be no future unless they let us live.

We have the right to live. We have the right.

They took most of our land, and we said “let’s accept it.”

Maybe the two-state solution will succeed, but they don’t want that.

They have extremists who do not want two states.

Narrator: Haniya, like many of Jenin’s residents, is a refugee of the 1948 Zionist expulsion of people from across Palestine.

Today, these depopulated villages either remain empty or have been razed to the ground to make way for Israel’s settlements.

Palestinians are banned from returning to these homes.

Haniya Salameh: The Israelis displaced us from our hometowns.

They raided our villages and massacred children. They slaughtered everyone who resisted, like sheep.

People left their homes without taking anything. Farouk’s uncle was hanged before we were displaced.

Farouk’s ambition was to remove the title ‘refugee’ from himself.

I hope that our children we will be able to do that, that we will return to our villages and get back our rights.

Narrator: With the highest unemployment rate in the West Bank, civilian life in Jenin is marked by

poverty and a pervasive sense of danger.

Escalating violence and increased Israeli restrictions on Palestinian rights do more to strengthen resistance among the civilian population.

The new generation of resistance fighters provide a sense of hope for residents who put their faith in those who live and die alongside them.

Farouk’s brother spoke to The Real News Network about the role of the resistance fighters in the community.

Fadi Salameh: People want protection from settlers and from the Israeli army, and to get back their human rights.

People cling to a grain of hope.

When you are a fighter, everyone will support you.

Any free person will support the Resistance.

As long as there is oppression, there is resistance.

When oppression stops, resistance stops too.

What young people want, as my brother Farouk said, is to live a life with dignity, pride, and respect.

As long as colonialism, and the killing of our people continues — the killing of children and elderly alike — the West Bank will continue to revolt, and it will not diminish.

Narrator: In operation Home and Garden, Israel claimed to target the so-called Jenin Brigade, one of the many armed groups fighting the occupation.

The raid came at a time of internal political unrest and division within Israel’s own political parties and is viewed by critics as a right-wing tool to save face.

Sharif Tahayna: [The invasions] are to appease the Israeli extreme Right.

On the other hand, they do not want any resistance even within the areas of the Palestinian Authority.

They want to invade without resistance — to be offered flowers instead of stones or bullets.

The Resistance will never be crushed, whether with this Israeli government or another.

Resistance will be renewed among the Palestinians. Any people under occupation have the right to resist.

This is the case for all colonized people.

Narrator: There’s long been tension between the residents of Jenin and the Palestinian Authority,

an unelected administrative body believed to be an arm of Israeli rule.

After the July invasion, angry residents protested outside the Palestinian Authority HQ and accused them of hiding away during the Israeli offensive.

Protester: “We prefer death to humiliation!”

“These are the legitimate guns.”

“Not the ones they hide within the [PA] headquarters.”

“These are the guns that protect us in times of crisis.”

Narrator: As some take up armed struggle, others in the community have created citizen-led initiatives to combat Israel’s regime.

Osayd Wahdan: We formed an independent ambulance team.

A teacher was injured, and there was no one to help him.

The Israelis prevented ambulances from entering the camp.

If there had been a paramedic, he would have survived.

So me and the guys thought, ‘How can we change this?’

So we set up an ambulance to operate from within the camp.

Narrator: As this resident assesses the damage made to his home in July, he spoke to the Real News Network about his experience from just a few months earlier.

Ra’ed Lahlouh: I was shot in January 2023. On the same day they killed the teacher Jawad Bawaqna.

I heard him screaming, I went outside to save him, I was shot twice in the stomach.

They entered from here and came out from here.

Narrator: Out-gunned, the Jenin Brigade use simple canopies to shield from the aerial view of Israel’s high-tech drones and attack helicopters.

Abdullah: When the army raid the camp, we shoot at them: how does that make me a terrorist?

People in the West think we have no ambition.

It’s not true. I was studying computer engineering and I had an invention.

All Palestinians have been subjected to the injustice of occupation.

We grew up with ambition.

We grew up playing in the street.

Children around the world may play ordinary games, like Playstation.

Here we are forced to play with stones.

There are no conditions for life here. No life.

When a child grows up like this, he becomes tough.

We had ambitions to become scientists, doctors, and engineers, but the occupation opted for violence.

Violence generates violence and blood generates seas of blood.

Narrator: Though it’s not the life they would have chosen, these young men have no choice but to fight for their basic human rights, and their mothers have no choice but to let them go.

Samira Salahat: I come here to see them, check on them, and give them water. I keep them company and talk to them.

I tell them what is happening to us in the camp, and about the new martyrs.

When [Israeli intelligence] discovered my son, Ezz, was a fighter, he asked why should he need to hide behind a mask?

He said “I am not afraid, I chose the path of struggle (jihad).”

This is the story of Ezz.

No mother would want her son taken from her, to be hurt, to be separated.

I tried (to protect him), but he chose the path of resistance and struggle.

He told me: “We are not alive in the camp. We are humiliated.”

He saw the army storming in, destroying and killing.

They killed his friends and their families. What could I do?

He said: “Why should I stay alone? What will I live for?”

Praise be to God, this is what happened with Ezz.

Narrator: And as the children who live under occupation today witness their brothers, fathers, teachers, and friends being harassed, arrested, and ultimately killed, what future can there be for them but to join the resistance?

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