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(photo credit: IDF)
The police's elite Yamam counterterror unit thwarted a terror attack on Monday planned for Independence Day after policemen arrested a top terror fugitive in Jericho. Four other suspects were apprehended in the operation and one was wounded after he was shot by policemen while trying to evade arrest.
IDF units have arrested ten would-be suicide bombers over the past week throughout the West Bank in daily raids primarily in northern Samaria cities like Nablus and Jenin.
Acting on intelligence supplied by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) regarding a specific terror threat, the Yamam unit surrounded a building in the center of Jericho and called on the occupants to surrender. Three Palestinians tried fleeing the building but were quickly caught by the policemen. The unit later caught an additional two Palestinians: Abed Rahman Ali, who allegedly shot and killed Eldad Abir in February at a gas station near the settlement of Migdalim; and Tarek Duas, who the Shin Bet believes was planning the Independence Day attack.
Commander of the Jordan Valley Brigade Col. Yigal Slovik told The Jerusalem Post that the army received intelligence about the terror cell several days ago but waited for the right time before conducting the raid to arrest the suspects.
"They were planning this attack for several days and once we saw that all of the cell members were in the building we sent in the Yamam," he said. "[The suspects] intended to perpetrate the attack over the next day or two."
Officials believe that the cell planned to detonate a bomb along the Jordan Valley Road, targeting civilian vehicles.
Slovik said that Hamas's rise to power and the massive IDF raid on a Jericho prison in March - during which the head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine was apprehended - were possible catalysts for the recent upsurge in terror activity in Jericho, a city that was relatively quiet during the past several years of Palestinian violence.
"We are noticing that something is going on in the city," he said. "Over the past month, there has been a sharp increase in the number of terror alerts originating in the city as well as the level of terror activity. There is no doubt that Hamas's rise to power is having an effect on the city of Jericho as well."
Earlier in the day, troops from the IDF elite Duvdevan unit shot and killed a Palestinian woman and wounded her two daughters by firing on a house in which a top Islamic Jihad suspect was hiding. The force set siege to the house early Monday morning and spent more than an hour trying to convince the fugitive to surrender. When he refused, soldiers fired warning shots in the air and a bulldozer began demolishing the house. A suspicious movement in the house led the troops to fire at the structure and the woman, identified as Itaf Zalaat, 41, was killed.
The suspect, Iad Abdullah, head of Islamic Jihad in Tulkarm, turned himself in to the troops following the shooting. His cousin, Islamic Jihad operative Shadi Fuhad Mahmud Hamed, was also staying in the house at the time and was arrested.
The IDF said that the incident would be investigated, and expressed regret for the harm caused to innocent civilians.
In total, the IDF arrested close to 30 terror suspects throughout the West Bank overnight Sunday. Nine were affiliated with Islamic Jihad, three with Fatah and one from the Popular Resistance Committees. During the course of the operation in Nablus, in which the Fatah and PRC operatives were arrested, two explosive devices were detonated against IDF troops. No one was hurt in the attack.
Also Monday, the Shin Bet released for publication that the bomber caught on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Highway in March, had planned to blow himself up at the Haifa Central Bus Station. The would-be bomber, the Shin Bet revealed, was from the village of Yamoun near Jenin and was driven into Israel by an Arab resident of the Jerusalem's Old City who drives Palestinians without permits into Israel for work. The vehicle which transported the would-be attacker, the Shin Bet added, succeeded in passing two IDF roadblocks without being checked before it entered Israel.