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Middle East: A West Bank town’s fragile rebirth

FRANCE 24’s correspondents returned to Jenin, in the northern West Bank, thirteen years after Ariel Sharon launched "Operation Defensive Shield", which devastated the city.


On March 29, 2002, Ariel Sharon’s government launched "Operation Defensive Shield" in several West Bank towns, two days after a suicide bombing killed 29 Israelis.

2002 was the deadliest year of the second Intifada. Israel was subjected to frequent bombings and so the Israeli army decided to invade the Palestinian Territories. Over eight days, it shelled whole areas of the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank.

For Israel, Jenin is the "capital of terrorism"; for Palestinians, it is "a symbol of Palestinian resistance."

The Israeli air force and infantry faced 100 armed men. As was often in this conflict, civilians were caught in the crossfire. And still to this day, no one can agree on the death toll from the eight-day operation.

The Palestinians call it a massacre, pointing to the hundreds of dead and wounded. The Israeli army, however, minimised these figures and claimed it only targeted Islamic Jihad, Hamas and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.

TV cameras from across the world showed the devastation: houses flattened by bulldozers and missiles. The UN promised an investigation, but to date the conclusions have still not been published.

Jenin will never forget the events of 2002.

Moreover, the Israeli army is never far away and its soldiers regularly make incursions.

Even though businesses, shops, malls, and upscale restaurants have sprung up across the city, the memory of the "martyrs" lives.

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