What happened: Three Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) operatives who were considered to be “ticking bombs” (about to carry out a terror attack) were killed by Israeli security forces in a gun fight near Jenin.
- In the early hours of Saturday morning, intelligence revealed that the cell was on its way to carry out a large-scale attack inside Israel.
- The Special Unit for Counter-Terror set up a roadblock between Jenin and Tulkarem near the village of Arabe.
- In the ensuing exchange of fire, the three PIJ fighters were killed and four Israeli troops were injured, including a veteran officer who sustained serious injuries.
- The cell was travelling in a car with an Israeli license plate and were equipped with a large quantity of weapons, including machine guns and hand grenades.
- In addition, there were two other successful counter-terror operations over the weekend, including the arrest of a fourth member of the PIJ cell.
- Last night there was rioting by Damascus Gate in Jerusalem at the end of the Ramadan prayers. At least ten rioters were arrested.
- Earlier on Sunday, Foreign Minister Lapid had visited the Damascus Gate for a security briefing with the police.
- On Friday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Kochavi toured the separation fence. He was shown hundreds of holes and gaps that allow tens of thousands of Palestinians to pass through every day on their way to work in Israel.
Context: Security forces are on the highest state of alert because of the tense situation and intelligence about further planned attacks.
- The assessment of the security establishment is that we are just at the beginning of a wave of terror.
- Since the beginning of the year security forces have arrested or killed about 20 similar cells that were planning shooting attacks in Israel.
- As well as tracking down terror cells, there is ongoing concern of lone wolf attackers – copycat-type attacks committed by individuals, with no prior affiliation to terrorist organisations, who were inspired by online footage of recent attacks.
- The IDF has deployed 13 battalions across the West Bank to prevent terrorist infiltrations. Almost half of those are stationed on the seam line to physically plug the holes where the fence has been breached.
- The gaps in the security barrier are not new; it is estimated that around 30,000-50,000 Palestinians enter Israeli illegally on a daily basis. This is in addition to the 150,000 who enter legally with work permits.
- The PIJ cell that was eliminated came from the same area as that of the terrorist who committed last week’s attack in Bnei Brak, and they were attempting a similar approach by entering Israel in a car with Israeli licence plates.
- Israel continues to follow a policy of distinction between terrorists and innocent Palestinians. At present, Israeli has decided to keep the crossing open for Palestinian workers and Ramadan worshippers.
- Hamas prefers to encourage and support violence inside Israel and the West Bank, and is not currently looking to escalate the situation on the Gaza border. However, extra troops have also been assigned to the border area as a precaution. As long as Gaza remains quiet, the flow of money and goods into the Gaza Strip, and the recent extension of work permits from there, will not be restricted either.
- In addition to operations in the West Bank, 14 Arab Israelis who have been identified as ISIS supporters were arrested over concern that they were liable to attempt to carry out terror attacks.
Looking ahead: The heightened state of alert is set to continue for some time, with IDF standing orders in place till after Israel’s Independence Day which falls this year on May 5th. The IDF has deployed its forces in anticipation for the next two months.
- As well as the West Bank and the Gaza border, as a precaution larger numbers of troops will augment the police and patrol busy areas within Israeli city centres.