There have been intense exchanges of fire between Israeli forces and armed Palestinian militants in Jenin refugee camp, in the occupied West Bank.
The Israeli military began what appears to be one of its most extensive operations in the territory in years with drone strikes early on Monday.
Nine Palestinians have been killed and 100 injured, health officials say.
Israel said it was putting a stop to Jenin being “a refuge for terrorism”. Palestinians accused it of a war crime.
The Palestinian Red Crescent says its crews have evacuated 3,000 people – including patients and the elderly – from the camp to hospitals.
It says dozens of people had been detained by Israeli forces in their homes since early Monday, without being provided or allowed any food or drink.
The Israeli military said there was no specific timeline for ending the operation, but that it could be “a matter of hours or a few days”.
Jenin has become a stronghold of a new generation of Palestinian militants who have become deeply frustrated by the Palestinian Authority’s aging leadership and the restrictions of the Israeli occupation.
The city has seen repeated Israeli military raids in the past year as local Palestinians have carried out deadly attacks on Israelis. Other Palestinian attackers have hidden there.
In 2002, during the second Palestinian intifada, Israeli forces launched a full-scale incursion in Jenin. At least 52 Palestinian militants and civilians and 23 Israeli soldiers were killed during 10 days of intense fighting.
Hundreds of Israeli soldiers were still operating inside Jenin on Monday night, more than 20 hours after the operation began.
As well as the hum of drones overhead, regular bursts of gunfire and the loud thuds of explosions came throughout the day from the densely populated refugee camp, which is home to some 18,000 people and is now declared a closed Israeli military zone.
Acrid smoke from burning tyres lit during protests also hung in the air above the city centre. A few young Palestinians were out on the streets, standing close to shuttered shops and staring nervously in the direction of the camp.
The Israeli military has cut off telephone communications and the electricity supply to the camp, making it difficult to get an accurate picture of what is happening. Palestinian medics have also been struggling to reach the dozens of injured there.
At the Palestinian hospital by the main entrance to the camp the mood was grim.
One man told the BBC: “I met my brother’s friend. I went up to him and had barely said a few words when he dropped on the ground. I went to run away, then I got hit by two bullets.”
Another man said there was a “massacre” in the camp.
“There are children and civilians and they’re not letting them out,” he added. “Our electricity is cut, they have dug up all our roads. The camp will be destroyed.”
Jovana Arsenijevic of the medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières told the BBC she was at a hospital that had seen more than 90 patients wounded by gunfire or shrapnel from explosive devices.
The Israeli military said it was acting on precise intelligence and did not to seek to harm civilians, but many have been caught in the crossfire.
The military allowed about 500 Palestinian families to leave the camp on Monday night. Some raised their hands or waved makeshift white flags in a gesture of surrender.
People told the BBC that some men and teenaged boys had been stopped by soldiers, and kept behind.
Source : BBC News