Israel’s army has begun withdrawing its troops from Jenin in the occupied West Bank about two days after the start of a large-scale military operation. The first soldiers left the city late in the evening, the military said. However, it is still unclear how long the withdrawal of all forces will last. According to the army, the aim of the operation was to smash the “terrorist infrastructure” of Islamist extremists.

According to Palestinian reports, fierce gun battles broke out with armed residents as the withdrawal began. Videos posted on social media showed explosive devices being thrown at a column of military vehicles.

According to the army, an Israeli non-commissioned officer was shot dead in Jenin that night. On the Israeli side, he is the first casualty since the beginning of the offensive.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had previously indicated that the mission would end soon. “In these moments we will complete the mission,” Netanyahu said, according to media reports, during a visit to a military post near Jenin in the afternoon. Nevertheless, he made it clear that the action was “not a one-off process, we will continue as long as necessary”.

Jenin is considered a stronghold of militant Palestinians

On Monday night, Israel began one of the largest military operations in the West Bank in decades. After several air strikes, the army moved into the Palestinian city of Jenin with around a thousand soldiers. Since then, the military has fought several violent exchanges of fire with armed residents. At least 12 Palestinians were killed and more than 100 others injured.

According to the army, several command centers, weapons depots, weapon production facilities and hiding places of suspects have been destroyed in the past few days. In addition, 30 suspects were arrested. Jenin is considered a stronghold of militant Palestinians. Several residents of the city have carried out deadly attacks on Israelis in recent years.