Raanana attacks: Edna Bluestein, a 79-year-old Israeli woman, was killed, and 18 more people wounded in Raanana yesterday, in attacks by two Palestinian cousins from the Hebron area.
- Seven children remain hospitalised with their injuries. Five of the injured are in serious condition and two – a 60-year-old and a 16-year-old boy – in critical condition.
- First, Mahmoud Zidat, 44, and in Israel illegally, arrived in a stolen vehicle at the industrial area on Raanana’s Haroshet Street. He stabbed a woman, wounding her slightly, before stealing her vehicle and embarking out on a rampage, running down two pedestrians. When the vehicle became stuck, he first attempted to commandeer another vehicle, before setting out on foot, stabbing another individual.
- Minutes later, on Ahuza Street, a few kilometers away, Zidat’s cousin Ahmad Zidat, 24, carried out a ramming attack at a bus stop, during which Bluestein was killed and 14 others injured. All of the wounded from both attacks were taken to Meir, Beilinson, Ichilov and Schneider hospitals.
- Both terrorists were captured and handed to the Shin Bet for questioning. According to the Shin Bet, both terrorists had been blacklisted for entering Israel illegally numerous times in the past.
- The Khalil a-Rahman group from Hebron, affiliated with Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, assumed responsibility for the terror attack.
Hostage video: Hamas yesterday released a propaganda video of the hostage Noa Argamani, claiming, under duress, that two other hostages Yossi Sharabi and Itay Svirsky were killed as a result of Israeli strikes.
- A day earlier, Hamas had released a video of all three hostages pleading for their release. It is not clear when either of the videos were recorded. The first video ended with a taunting text, “Tomorrow we will inform you of their fate.”
- In response to the recording, IDF Spokesperson Daniel Hagari denied Hamas’s allegation that Itai Svirsky had been killed by IDF fire. Hagari described that allegation as a lie.
- Hagari added, “We did not know their exact location in real-time. We do not strike where we know there are hostages. In retrospect, we know that we attacked targets close to the location where they were held.”
- The IDF Spokesperson’s office added, “Hamas is weaponizing social media as an instrument of war. Hamas wages psychological warfare to terrorise and torment. This is a new benchmark in barbarism set by Hamas.”
- Itay Svirsky, 38, was kidnapped while he was visiting his mother on Kibbutz Be’eri. Both his parents, Orit and Rafi Svirsky, were murdered. His 96-year-old grandmother Aviva Sela managed to survive.
- Yossi Sharabi, 53, was also taken from Kibbutz Be’eri, along with his brother, Eli Sharabi. Eli’s wife, Lianne and their two daughters, Noiya and Yahel, were killed on October 7.
- Noa Argamani, 26, was abducted from the Supernova music festival. She was seen on video on the morning of October 7, being taken away on the back of a motorbike.
Gaza Strip: The IDF have continued to reduce their presence in northern Gaza Strip, as part of their gradual redeployment into phase three of the war.
- There remains one IDF division, including seven brigades operating in southern Gaza in the Khan Yunis area.
- Another IDF solider was killed in action yesterday, and two others seriously wounded, reflecting the continued fighting in southern Gaza. Since the beginning of the ground operation, 189 soldiers have fallen.
- In Nuseirat, in central Gaza, the IDF announced they “located a compound used for manufacturing mortar shells, a rocket production factory and weapons hidden in the building of a humanitarian organisation.” In addition, forces “encountered 10 Hamas terrorists hiding in the school. The terrorists were apprehended and detained for further investigation.”
- Additional troops remain deployed along the route that bisects the Strip into north and south.
- In the northern Gaza section smaller forces remain focused on pin-point raids against remaining terror targets. For example, yesterday in the area of Beit Lahia, IDF troops located approximately 100 rocket set-installations and 60 ready-to-use rockets. The troops killed dozens of terrorists during the activity.
- Despite the IDF presence, this morning a barrage of 50 rockets were fired towards southern Israel. There were direct hits reported in Netivot and Moshav Givolim.
Context: Prior to the October 7 attacks, around 150,000 Palestinians from the West Bank held permits to work inside Israel or in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. In addition, 18,000 Gazans also held work permits.
- Despite the fact that both terrorists were in Israel illegally, Defence Secretary Gallant faces political criticism for his plan to increase permits for West Bank Palestinian workers to work in Israel.
- Work permits were cancelled by the government in the wake of October 7, and the tax revenues collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA) withheld.
- Gallant has supported the Shin Bet and IDF leadership in pushing for the work permit policy to be reversed, in a bid to calm heightened tensions in the West Bank, and to ease the burden on the Israeli construction industry, which is currently short on manpower.
- On Sunday, Gallant said that he “hope[d] that the government will accept the position of the IDF and the Shin Bet on everything that is connected to labourers and money. I will say this in the clearest way possible: A strong PA is in the best security interests of Israel.”
- Over the weekend, Israeli media reported that the Shin Bet had written to Prime Minister Netanyahu urging him to allow the return of West Bank workers to Israel and the distribution of the funds to the PA.
- The Israeli government faces a dilemma: on one hand it understands that Palestinian workers represent economic stability for the West Bank, bringing in crucial revenue, both for themselves and their families, and in tax revenues for the PA. Greater economic stability is thought to have security benefits, too, with those able to provide for their families generally less susceptible to Hamas’s and other groups’ incitement and recruitment. Palestinian labour is also important to the Israeli economy, especially the construction industry.
- However, after October 7, allowing tens of thousands of Palestinians to enter Israel is regarded as a security risk, even though Palestinians with permits very rarely carry out attacks. Reports that Hamas was aided in its intelligence in planning October 7 by Gazans working in Israel only exacerbates these fears.
- One of the terrorists had worked at a carwash on Haroshet Street. Detectives are now trying to determine whether the terrorists stole the vehicles they used from the carwash.
- The IDF’s assessment is that several hundred Palestinians are currently in Israel illegally working for Israelis.
- Since October 7, Israeli forces have arrested more than 2,650 wanted Palestinians across the West Bank, including more than 1,300 affiliated with Hamas. According to the Palestinian Authority health ministry, some 300 West Bank Palestinians have been killed in that time, the majority thought to have died in clashes with Israeli troops.
- Security Cabinet minister and New Hope Party Chairman Gideon Saar said, “the painful terror attack in Raanana is further proof of the fact that it is impossible to distinguish, certainly in a time of war, when allowing labourers into Israel, between Palestinians from Gaza and Palestinians from Judea and Samaria. Age is no guarantee of anything, either. We must fight relentlessly against the entry of Palestinians: by means of prevention and severe punishment of people who drive, host and hire [them].”
- Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Liberman said, “regrettably, the only uniting thing in this war cabinet is that same mistaken preconception that visited the October 7 disaster upon us. I can’t understand the defence minister, who is talking about how we need to strengthen the PA. Whom exactly do we want to strengthen? Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas], the chronic Holocaust-denier who has refused to condemn the October 7 massacre? The person who is behind South Africa’s case and is inciting against the State of Israel—that’s who we want to strengthen?”
Looking ahead: Following the terror attacks, Israeli forces will be vigilant over the prospect of copycat attacks.
- It is understood that as part of the ongoing talks between senior Israeli and US officials, the US is keen to further empower the PA, including by encouraging Israel to release the tax funds and renew permits for Palestinian workers.
- The security establishment have been exploring a pilot programme to allow a limited return of West Bank Palestinian workers into Israel, with enhanced security provisions.