Three Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terrorists were killed in an exchange of gunfire with Israeli security forces in the northern West Bank on Saturday, as part of the recent wave of terrorism.
By Erin Viner
The firefight erupted when the Israeli force came under fire during an arrest raid when they closed in on the wanted terrorists driving near Jenin. Hand grenades, ammunition and weapons including at least one automatic rifle branded with an IDF insignia planned to be used against Israeli civilians were discovered hidden in their vehicle.
“This is a terrorist cell that has been involved in terrorist activity against security forces recently, and was apparently on its way to another attack,” said the Israeli Border Police following the incident.
Four Israeli officers were wounded, including a commander in the elite counterterrorism Yamam Border Police Unit, who was shot in the chest. The prominent officer, who can only be identified as 43-year-old Chief Superintendent S., was evacuated by helicopter to a Haifa medical facility in critical condition, where he was placed in an induced coma after undergoing emergency surgery. He woke up yesterday afternoon and is said to be communicating with his family and doctors.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said he is praying for the recovery of Chief Superintendent S., who he described as “one of Israel’s finest field commanders,” who has been involved in “hundreds of confrontations and battles.” One of the most impressive operations S. commanded was the capture of six Palestinian security prisoners who escaped from the maximum-security Gilboa Prison last September.
“Over the weekend, ISA and Israel National Counter-Terrorism Unit forces, together with the IDF, thwarted a terrorist attack, on its way to being carried out,” said the Prime Minister, adding, “Like this attack, the terrorists have all kinds of ideas; therefore, we are on highest alert, both the ISA and the Israel Police, in order to identify any fragment of an idea or planning for an attack and to thwart it in time.”
According to statements from the Israel Security Agency (ISA, also known as the Shin Bet), the three PIJ gunmen were “ticking time bombs” who were responsible for at least one terror shooting against Israeli forces in the West Bank and were planning to carry out several additional attacks in the immediate future. They had been under surveillance in the hours leading to the clash.
The PIJ, based in Gaza, confirmed the three were members of its West Bank branch and proclaimed readiness ‘to protect their fighters in the territories as needed.’
In earlier violence on Friday, a Palestinian assailant was shot dead after he threw a firebomb at Israeli troops in the southern West Bank city of Hebron during a riot that erupted after Islamic prayers. The terrorist was identified as Ahmad al-Atrash, 29, who had previously been convicted on multiple security-related offenses three times between 2010 and 2020, including weapon production and sales. A mob of Palestinians paraded his body through the streets while shouting “Allahu Akbar” and vowing “in spirit and blood we will redeem Palestine.”
There were no casualties on the Israeli side.
Two other Palestinian gunmen were killed in an exchange of fire exchange with Israeli security forces during a counterterrorism operation in Jenin on Thursday, while an additional terrorist was shot dead by an armed civilian in Gush Etzion after stabbing an Israeli passenger multiple times with a screwdriver on a bus, severely wounding him.
Arab terrorists murdered 11 people in a number of separate attacks across Israel last week. In the sharpest spike of terrorism in years, a Bedouin Arab murdered four people in a stabbing and car ramming attack in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba on 22 March, followed by the deadly shooting of two victims by two Arab gunmen in the central city of Hadera on 27 March. Israeli authorities said all of the assailants, who were killed during their deadly attacks, were loyal to Islamic State terror group. Five other people were shot to death in Bnei Brak on 29 March in an attack that was not claimed by any armed group, though residents of the West Bank village of Ya’bad linked the assailant to the Fatah party lead by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Tensions have risen over the rise of attacks in the run-up to Saturday’s start of Ramadan, a period during which violence has spiked. Near-nightly clashes between Arabs and Jerusalem police during last year’s observance of the Muslim holy month prompted full scale fighting with Gaza when Palestinian terror groups based in the territory fired more than 4,000 rockets at the Jewish State during the ensuing 11-day Operation Guardian of the Walls last May.
Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian leaders have held a flurry of talks in recent weeks aimed at deescalating tensions, including a telephone conversation between Prime Minister Bennett and Jordanian King Abdullah II yesterday. Israel has also made a series of goodwill gestures intended to calm hostilities during Ramadan.
Over 20,000 Muslim worshippers participated in Friday prayers at the al-Aqsa Mosque on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount which concluded without incident. Four Palestinians were arrested during a later riot at the Damascus Gate entrance into the Old City on Friday night.
10 Palestinians were also arrested during clashes with Israeli security forces at the site last night, reportedly injuring at least one police officer and 14 rioters.