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(photo credit: AP)
Security forces warned Thursday morning that Israel was in the midst of a new wave of terror attacks. On Wednesday, 72 terror warnings were recorded by the security establishment, 12 related to concrete threats, security officials said.
Since Hamas won the Palestinian Legislative Council elections, there had been a sharp increase in stone throwing, firebomb and stabbing incidents, security officials said, estimating that these would continue to increase. They added that shooting attacks such as the two that took place Wednesday do not signify an upsurge in such types of attacks.
"The violence in recent weeks is what we describe as a popular or people's uprising, and could worsen," one security official said.
Benzi Lieberman, head of the Samaria Regional Council, declared that the attacks were similar to the situation before Operation Defensive Shield was launched, the days when the security of Judea and Samaria civilians was abandoned, he said. Protesting reduced IDF presence in the area, he said that "it appears that [Acting Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert and [Defense Minister Shaul] Mofaz prefer to deploy security forces to demolish nine buildings rather than enhance security for citizens and combat terror."
While Judea and Samaria police are treating the two Samaria shooting attacks as the acts of terrorists, they have not ruled out the possibility of criminal motives, deputy Samaria police commander Uzi Zomar told The Jerusalem Post. "We cannot rule out the possibility of criminal motives, especially at Migdalim, as the findings on the ground did not support any one direction," he said.
Zomar confirmed that Abir was known to police, but said the shooting at Nebi Elias appeared to have been nationalistically motivated.
In both attacks, the terrorists used handguns, he said. "It is not clear if the weapons used in both attacks were the same [one] or whether it was just coincidental," he said. "The bullet casings found at both sites have been sent for ballistic testing. Once we receive the findings we may be able to determine if there is a link between the two attacks."
Two hours after the shooting at Migdalim, reports were received of another attack in Nebi Elias, the village that in recent weeks made headlines after unknown assailants defaced the village mosque twice, daubing the exterior wall with Mohammed the Pig and a Star of David. The incidents sparked intense clashes in the area.
In Wednesday's incident, a 47-year-old resident of Netanya was shot in the neck at as he stepped out of a shop in the village. The shopkeeper, who heard gunfire, saw the Israeli lying on the ground and alerted the police. Within minutes, security forces reached the site and medics stabilized the man's condition and transferred him to a hospital.
The terrorists also shot at the car of an Israeli Arab resident of Jaffa, who was shopping in the village with his two wives and two children. The five were in the car at the time of the shooting. The bullet penetrated the windshield of their car, embedding itself in the baby's seat located in the rear. The man left the area and headed towards a checkpoint outside of Kalkilya, notifying the soldiers of the attack.
"It was sheer luck that the baby was not hit by the bullet, as it was lying in the seat when the shots were fired," an IDF officer said.