Smoke rises following what witnesses said was an IAF air strike in the east of Gaza City..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Hebron region continued under IDF closure throughout the weekend – the first such security measure in two years – as security forces conducted a mass search for the terrorist shooting cell that fired on an Israeli vehicle on Friday, killing Rabbi Michael Mark, a father of 10.
The closure is part of an effort to disrupt a series of deadly terrorist attacks on Israelis in the past over the past few days, a senior security source said on Friday. Only humanitarian journeys are allowed out of the city and its suburbs, which are home to some 700,000 Palestinians, for the duration of the closure.
“If we do not place our hands on the shooting cell [behind Friday’s attack], there will be further attacks,” the source warned, saying the closure would assist intelligence efforts to track down the terrorists.
The IDF believes Friday’s shooting attack took the form of a drive-by shooting from close range.
The security source said the latter part of Ramadan saw an increase in terrorism in past years, as well.
He also noted the failure of any figure in the Palestinian Authority to condemn the murder on Thursday of an Israeli girl in her bed in Kiryat Arba.
“I don’t see anyone saying, stop, this was a 13-year-old girl. We are clearly seeing ongoing incitement in the PA,” he said.
The IDF has sent two back-up battalions to the West Bank, and beefed up the number of units guarding roads and communities. The last time Hebron was placed under closure was in June 2014, following the kidnap and murder of three Israeli teenagers by a local Hamas cell.
“The goal now is to disrupt the flow of attacks,” he said. “We also have canceled all work permits in Israel for residents of Bani Naim [from where the knife attacker behind Thursday’s killing came].
“These steps follow instructions from Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who has been in consultations with the chief of staff [Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot], and the prime minister [Benjamin Netanyahu],” the source said.
“This is not our first shooting attack.
Raising the numbers of our personnel in the field where there is friction between Jews and Palestinians has worked as a technique in the past. We must make sure our soldiers are alert and responsive,” the source added.
The closure, thus far, has not resulted in a large increase in disturbances, though the army did engage small, sporadic groups of Palestinian rock-throwers, as well as residents who hurled objects at IDF units from rooftops.
“This occurs on many weekends,” an army spokeswoman said Saturday afternoon.
The IDF also has raised the age of Muslim worshipers authorized to travel to Jerusalem to mark Laylat al-Qadr, one of the last 10 days of Ramadan.