idf jeeps gaza 224ap.
(photo credit: AP)
Following a dramatic chase that led to blocked roads throughout the south and center of the country, security forces apprehended two Gazans who entered Israel illegally Friday. The two are believed to have infiltrated the Gaza security fence in hopes of finding employment in Israel and not, as feared, to carry out a terror attack.
The two were spotted Friday afternoon by military observers cutting through the security fence in northern Gaza, near Kibbutz Mefalsim. The two were then picked up by a vehicle on the Israeli side of the security fence, which sped off northward toward the center of the country.
Despite initial speculation that the two were unarmed and were simply trying to find work, security forces decided to respond to a worst-case scenario, and operated as if the two were, in fact, terrorists seeking to attack an Israeli target.
The IDF, police and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) set up roadblocks in the Central, Southern and Tel Aviv Districts to track down the two men. IDF forces tightened security at entrances to the West Bank while helicopters conducted aerial searches.
Security forces' initial situation assessments indicated increased suspicion that the two might try to reach the Tel Aviv area, or areas where they could blend in with the local Arab population, such as Jaffa and Taiba. The alerts migrated northward - at first police raised warning levels in Gedera, Kiryat Ekron and neighboring kibbutzim.
But as the evening wore on, the alert moved northward to Hadera and Wadi Ara, with checkpoints put up on the Trans-Israel Highway and Route 65 as well as at entrances to Hadera and Beit Shean.
Makeshift roadblocks caused traffic congestion throughout central Israel. Police called on citizens to show "extra patience" while stuck in ensuing traffic tie-ups that lasted early into Shabbat.
Ultimately, the searches paid off and the two were arrested in Tira. During interrogation, the men admitted to infiltrating into Israel to seek work and denied any plans to carry out terror attacks. Two other Palestinians suspected of aiding the infiltration were caught in Bat Yam.
The high level of alert posted following the infiltration was lifted shortly after 10:30 p.m. The IDF is planning to probe how the two managed to approach and get through the security fence.