Decade after Operation Defensive Shield, the Jenin city prospers

Once “The Capital of Terrorism” now enjoys a significant decrease in unemployment rates, cooperation with Palestinian security forces, and growing culture centers 

Date: 29/03/2012, 7:36 PM     Author: Florit Shoihet

Meet the 2012 city of Jenin: a city of agriculture and commerce whose streets are crammed with 5,000 cars every weekend, mostly belonging to Israeli Arabs from throughout Israel who come to shop at the local markets and hang out at the dozens of restaurants and cafes the city offers.
Just a decade ago, the atmosphere here was much grimmer. The city streets were covered posters of “martyrs” who had massacred Israelis, terrorists walked around carrying Kalashnikov rifles on their backs, and day and night their squads planned attacks in Judea, Samaria, and throughout Israel, acquiring the city its infamous nickname-“The Capital of Terrorism.”

Decade after Operation Defensive Shield, the Jenin city prospers

On March 29, 2002, following the attack at Netanya’s Park Hotel, in which a terrorist killed 30 Israelis, the IDF (Zahal) decided to begin Operation Defensive Shield. Terror was pouring out of the largest Palestinian cities, and since Jenin was the leader, it required large numbers of IDF (Zahal) forces. Several days after the Operation began, the IDF (Zahal) was caught in the bloodiest battles that it had experienced in many years.Despite the operation, bloody attacks continued to emanate from Jenin for years.
And today: a shopping mall, a large amphitheater, and an amusement park. The streets are safe and quiet, the only armed people strolling in the city being Palestinian policemen, and the city’s hero is not an arch-terrorist like Zakaria Zubeidi, but rather the sought-after wedding singer Mussa Hafez.
Nonetheless, even a decade after Operation Defensive Shield weakened the infrastructure of terror in the city, the Menashe Regional Brigade of the IDF (Zahal) – which is responsible for maintaining security in the area of Jenin – warns that despite the normalization in the city, terror has not been eliminated entirely. “We always need to stay alert, in case any attack breakout” said representatives of the Brigade.

Just a decade ago, Jenin: ‘The Capital of Terrorism’

In the dark years of the Second Intifada, the terrorists of Jenin had more blood on their hands than those in any other place. By 2005, 31 terrorists from Jenin had carried out attacks against the Israeli home front, killing 135 Israelis. The Judea and Samaria Division estimates that approximately 700 shooting attacks were carried out from the area every year. Today, it is rare that even one such attack takes place.
The credit for the improvement in the security situation lies with several factors. In addition to Operation Defensive Shield and the building of the security fence in the northern Samaria region, the strengthening of the Palestinian infrastructure in Jenin in the mid-2000s, together with increased security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, bore fruit. “With regard to what was previously in this region, Jenin is in a different place entirely,” said Deputy Chief of the Coordination and Communication Administration in Jenin Major Samir Khiyuf.

Decade after Operation Defensive Shield, the Jenin city prospers

“There is a significant difference in the status of a Palestinian police officer as compared to in the past, and with every passing day there is more respect for Palestinian police officers and their status will continue to improve enormously.”
The Menashe Regional Brigade is satisfied with Israeli-Palestinian cooperation. “The number of IDF (Zahal) operations in Jenin decreased drastically following cooperating with the Palestinian infrastructure however the IDF (Zahal) and the Israel Security Agency (ISA) continue to thwart terror attacks before they are executed.

Better living conditions and a rapidly growing economy

Civilian life in Jenin seems to be improving overall. With support from the U.S. the Palestinian Authority and Israel, in 2008 efforts were made to significantly increase PA control over the city enabling reduced IDF (Zahal) presence in the city, dismantling of crossings, and fewer checkpoints, all in order to better accommodate local civilians. Jenin residents barely interact with IDF (Zahal) soldiers and are free to travel and transport goods. As a result, there has been a significant improvement in the economy as “unemployment rates reduced by 50 percent in just five years”, according to Jenin Deputy District Coordination Liaison, Maj. Kiuf. He accredits the improvement to the Gilboa corssing located near the city. 

Decade after Operation Defensive Shield, the Jenin city prospers

Approximately 50 thousand Jenin residents are currently more focused on making many rather than planning terror attacks. Most of the economy is based on agriculture, commerce, and factory work that includes export to Israeli markets. The Palestinian Authority and the Civil Administration are investing infrastructure and making the city more environmentally friendly.