Three armed Islamic Jihad fugitives killed in a pre-dawn raid on Friday by security forces in Ilar and Saide, northeast of Tulkarm, were planning to launch attacks in Israel in the coming days, security officials said.
According to the army, the three already had devised a plan and were planning to manufacture Kassam rockets in the area to use in attacks against Israel.
Near their bodies soldiers found Kalashnikov rifles, an M16 rifle, handguns, and an assortment of matching ammunition clips.
Islamic Jihad cells operating in the villages north of Tulkarm are considered to be among the deadliest cells currently active in northern Samaria, officials said.
Members of the infrastructure had totally ignored the so-called truce, or tahdiya, that went into effect in February, and had constantly increased their efforts to launch attacks against Israel, the officials added.
Security officials estimated that Friday's raid would hamper the organization's ability to launch attacks, but noted that mastermind Louie Sa'adi remained at large.
Jamil Naziah Jamil Jiarah, 29, Said Taleb Said Askar, 23, and Ra'ad Ahmed Mahmoud Ajaj, 28, of Saide, were killed in the operation conducted by the IDF, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), and elite police units, that began late Thursday night.
According to the Shin Bet and IDF, the three were linked to the same Islamic Jihad infrastructure responsible for the Stage nightclub bombing in Tel Aviv in February in which five Israelis were killed; the suicide bomb attack at the Sharon Mall in Netanya in July that also killed five Israelis; and the attempted car bomb attack near Shavei Shomron that was thwarted by security forces the same month.
Acting on intelligence information, troops began surrounding the house where Jiarah and Askar were believed to be hiding, Nahal Brigade commander Col. Ronni Numah told The Jerusalem Post. "Soldiers then spotted Jiarah and Askar, who were armed, attempting to flee the building," he said.
They then opened fire on troops who returned fire, killing them.
It was then that soldiers spotted a third armed fugitive, later identified as Ajaj, fleeing in the direction of Saide.
Soldiers pursued him for hours, finally catching up with him before dawn on Friday hiding in an olive grove near the village. Ajaj was killed in a gun battle that erupted with security forces, Numah said.
Elsewhere in the West Bank over the weekend, shots were fired several times at a crossing between Israel and the West Bank, west of Tulkarm. No one was wounded and no damage was reported.
At the Bekaot checkpoint in the north Jordan Valley on Friday afternoon, soldiers arrested three Palestinians found carrying 1,500 bullets. The three were handed over to security officials for questioning.