An IDF soldier and an officer were critically wounded and 5 Hamas terrorists killed during gun battles on Sunday, in the deadliest violence between the sides since the 11-day Operation Guardian of the Walls conflict in May.
By Erin Viner
The casualties were incurred during several gun battles that erupted in the West Bank districts of Judea and Samaria over the weekend as Israeli security forces engaged in operational activities to capture suspected members of Palestinian terror cells.
Following several weeks of extensive intelligence and operational efforts, IDF troops, the military Intelligence Directorate, Israel Security Agency (ISA, or Shin Bet), Israeli Police Counter Terrorism Unit “YAMAM” and the Israeli Border Police “YAMAS” Special Operations Unit engaged in 5 simultaneous operations to apprehend Palestinian operatives of the Hamas’ Izz-al-Din al-Qassam Brigades military wing.
3 gunmen in the Palestinian Authority (PA) village of Bidu southeast of Ramallah were killed after shooting at YAMAM forces, who returned fire. There were no reported injuries among the Israeli unit.
1 IDF soldier and an officer were, however, seriously wounded in a terrorist shooting in the Palestinian village of Burqin, southeast of the city of Nablus. Both were evacuated by helicopter to an Israeli hospital for medical treatment. The incident occurred as the IDF “Duvdevan” Special Operations Unit successfully carried out a raid to arrest a wanted suspect.
A short time later in the same village, additional terrorists were shot and killed in returned fire by Israeli Border Police who arrived at the scene. An additional terrorist was taken into custody after opening fire at Israeli troops from a passing vehicle.
Following a briefing from commanders of the Judea and Samaria Division upon conclusion of the wide-scale operation, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi commended the Israeli forces for having thwarted several impending and “very significant terror attacks.”
Despite being confronted by “a night with a series of ‘obstructions’ of the highest importance,” the top IDF chief hailed the “very nice achievement” and “job well done” that demonstrated the “intelligence, operational and exemplary cooperation” of the IDF, ISA, YAMAM, and additional security forces.
Gen. Aviv Kochavi went on to caution that, “We must remember and remind all of us that these successful obstructions (of terrorists and their malign plans), dozens of such operations taken place every single week. This is what creates for the State of Israel protection, defense and security,” not only “in the area of Judea and Samaria” but “attacks that could have been carried out in Jerusalem, Netanya, Tel Aviv, Afula and every other place.”
“The soldiers acted bravely and professionally,” Gen. Kochavi said. “I send the wounded my best wishes for a speedy recovery. We will continue to operate on all fronts to ensure the security of Israelis,” he vowed.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was provided with a detailed update on the overnight events while he was en route to address the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York.
“The security forces took action overnight in Judea and Samaria against Hamas terrorists who were about to carry out terrorist attacks in real-time,” said the Israeli leader, underscoring that, “The soldiers and commanders in the field acted as expected; they engaged the enemy and we back them completely.”
The Islamist Hamas rulers of Gaza called on Arab residents of the West Bank “to escalate resistance against the occupier in all areas” after the raids. Condemning the deaths of its “martyrs,” Hamas Spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Palestinians would retaliate with “blood for blood and bullet for bullet in the West Bank and Jerusalem.”
PA President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah faction lost Gaza to Hamas in a bloody internecine conflict in 2007, issued a statement alleging that Israel had committed “field executions against our people.”
In related developments, 2 other IDF soldiers were wounded in a separate incident late last night, when Palestinians opened fire and hurled firebombs at the troops protecting Jewish worshippers who were praying at Joseph’s Tomb.