(photo credit: AMIT BAR-YOSEF)
Beersheba police arrested a teenage Palestinian girl on Wednesday they say was en route to carry out a terrorist attack in Jerusalem.
In a statement Thursday, Negev subdistrict police said that the parents of a 15-yearold Beersheba girl reported that she had gone missing, after she had sent them a text message saying they “would soon hear about her on the news.”
Police officers then began combing the city until they found the girl at the North Beersheba train station, where she was arrested.
Under questioning, the girl confessed that she was on her way to Jerusalem, where “said she planned on stabbing Jews, soldiers, and the police,” according to a police spokesman.
The teenager is a Palestinian originally from the West Bank who moved to Beersheba with her family a few years ago.
On Thursday, she was taken for a remand hearing at the Beersheba Magistrate’s Court, where she was ordered kept in the custody of juvenile authorities for two days.
Also on Thursday, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) released two east Jerusalem men in Tel Aviv, hours after they were arrested following an hourlong manhunt across the metropolis, saying they had determined there was no reason to suspect them of planning a terrorist attack.
For a solid hour on Thursday morning, much of the Tel Aviv area was on high alert as undercover police, special police units and Shin Bet officers descended upon the Givatayim area, after information was received on “a suspicious vehicle.”
Security officials did not suspect it was a car bomb; rather that it was transporting at least one person suspected of plotting an attack.
As the manhunt intensified, police closed off the Shalom Bridge intersection and the Mozes Bridge, snarling Thursday morning traffic in Tel Aviv.
A little over an hour later, police announced that the incident was over, and that two men had been arrested and handed over to the Shin Bet for questioning. Both are residents of east Jerusalem, the agency said, adding that intelligence had identified the two men as persons of interest.
By late afternoon, however, the Shin Bet said that it had released the men and they did not suspect either of plotting an attack.
The false alarm followed an incident in Haifa in the morning, when a soldier on a train fired a warning shot into the air amid fears that a knife-wielding man was on board.
Coastal District police said the incident began on Thursday morning when soldiers thought became suspicious of a man and began screaming “Terrorist,” after which an IDF officer sitting in another car fired into the roof of the train.
The train’s emergency brakes brought it to a stop and Haifa police quickly boarded and carried out a short search. After finding no attacker on board, the train continued northward to the next stop.
Also on Thursday morning, Israeli news sites reported that an Arab man had been arrested near Kfar Chabad with a number of knives and alternately either a Hamas flag or flag of Saudi Arabia. A spokesman for the Central District told The Jerusalem Post that the man is a construction worker from Taibe who had a couple of knives in his vehicle along with the rest of his tools and that the flag was for the Islamic Movement in Israel.
The spokesman said the man did not have a criminal or security background and police did not have any indication he was planning an attack.
False alarms have circulated quickly across the country on a daily basis this week, as Israelis – many of them glued to their cellphones – have passed along online rumors on social media and initial, unconfirmed reports.
In many cases, the incidents reported have involved criminal attacks with no terrorism angle, or there were simply nothing to them.
The good news is that no terrorist attacks were reported in Jerusalem on Thursday.
According to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, heightened security throughout the capital stymied the ongoing wave of violence.
“No attacks took place today due to the strong police presence,” he said. “Police units continue to implement heightened security as they search for suspects.”
Rosenfeld noted that the police force is making final preparations for Friday prayers on the Temple Mount. Muslim worshipers under the age of 50 will not be admitted.
More than 4,500 officers have been deployed throughout the capital since the crisis began earlier this month. An additional 300 IDF soldiers are to be deployed in the city on Sunday to guard the public transportation system, the Transportation Ministry announced on Thursday.Daniel K. Eisenbud contributed to this report.