Bennett: We're working 'around the clock' to prevent further attacks

Israel's security chiefs hold situational assessment • Bennett meets with Shin Bet head, says counterterrorism operations are 'ongoing'

IDF Intelligence Officer speaks about the activities of the IDF in their work to catch terrorist squads. (VIDEO CREDIT: IDF SPOKESPERSONS UNIT)

Security forces are working “around the clock” to prevent further terror attacks, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Saturday night after a terror attack was thwarted when Border Police killed three members of a Palestinian terrorist cell near Jenin yesterday.

Four Border Police officers were wounded in the operation by the Counterterrorism Unit, which also included the army.

“Over Shabbat, the Shin Bet (Israeli Security Agency), the Israel Police, the Israel National Counterterrorism Unit, and the IDF foiled a ticking bomb,” Bennett said. “However, we are certainly assuming that there will be many more attempts and we are currently working to thwart them. Our people are acting with courage around the clock in a hostile and violent environment.”

He spoke during a visit to the Shin Bet’s headquarters in Tel Aviv, where he met with its director, Ronen Bar.

“We are in the midst of a joint effort by the security forces to stop the recent terrorist attacks from continuing and to restore security to the citizens of Israel,” said Bennett.

He spoke at the start of Ramadan, which will also overlap with Passover. Israel fears that religious sensitivities will inflame an already tense situation, following the murder last month of 11 people in three separate terror attacks by both Palestinian and Israeli-Arab terrorists.

Energies have been particularly focused on the Temple Mount, also known as al-Haram al-Sharif, but security forces are prepared for further violent outbreaks in the West Bank and within sovereign Israel as well as from Gaza.

On Saturday security forces killed three members of a Palestinian terror cell in Araba near Jenin, according to the Shin Bet.

  Gantz in gaza (credit: MINISTRY OF DEFENSE) Gantz in gaza (credit: MINISTRY OF DEFENSE)

They were later identified as belonging to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which vowed after the incident to continue fighting Israel “in the name of the Palestinian people.”

The movement said it “held the enemy fully responsible for this crime, stressing that this blood will not be in vain, and they will continue to fight the enemy, confront it, and respond to its crimes with determination and steadfastness, no matter how much the sacrifices may be.”

The terrorists were responsible for previous terror attacks against Israeli security forces, and intelligence determined that they were on the way to carry out another large-scale attack; they were defined by the Shin Bet as “ticking time-bombs.”

Security forces were monitoring the cell for hours on Friday and eventually began a car chase after their vehicle. The terrorists eventually opened fire at the forces, who fired back and killed them.

Four Border Police officers were injured in the fight. Two of them were lightly wounded, one was moderately wounded with wounds to his lower body, and the fourth was severely wounded and was taken to the hospital where he underwent surgery and is in stable condition, according to Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center.

Various weapons were found in their car, including guns and grenades.

 IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi with officers from the Israeli military's cyber units (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT) IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi with officers from the Israeli military's cyber units (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

A will was also found in the car, encouraging the continuation of terror attacks against Israelis. A video on social media showed one of the terrorists reading out the will prior to setting out for the attack.

The IDF and Shin Bet later on Saturday arrested a man suspected of being the fourth member of the cell, in a joint operation of the special forces unit Duvdevan and Shin Bet operatives in Shweikha, near Tulkarm.

In speaking of the operation, Bennett said “the goal is to stop the terrorists wherever they are, preferably in the planning stages than in the implementation stages or at the actual site”, as he explained that army and police forces have been “deployed around the country in order to stop this wave at the outset.

“The police are on an expanded deployment. The IDF has greatly boosted its presence on Israel’s streets. Our goal is to maintain a daily routine with maximum civilian alert and vigorous actions by the security forces,” he added.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Saturday evening delivered a special video message to Palestinians in which he warned that the recent wave of terrorism is endangering the steps taken by Israel and the Palestinian Authority to improve the quality of life for West Bank residents.

“[Israel] is considering what steps it can take to ensure you can celebrate Ramadan in the best way,” Gantz said in his message, published through the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Facebook page. “But Israel’s security comes first,” he warned. Gantz finished the message by wishing Palestinians “Ramadan Mubarak.”

Earlier on Saturday, Gantz met with security chiefs.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi and Shin Bet head  Bar updated Gantz on the successful operation near Jenin. The IDF’s Operations Directorate OC Maj.-Gen. Oded Basyuk, COGAT head Maj.-Gen. Ghassan Alian, Military Intelligence Directorate OC Maj.-Gen. Aharon Haliva and head of the Defense Ministry’s Political-Military Bureau Brig.-Gen. (res.) Dror Shalom were present.

Kohavi on Saturday took a tour of the intelligence units that are currently conducting special operations to uncover Palestinian terrorist squads.

“We will continue our intelligence efforts and offensive countermeasures without any restriction, at any place and time,” said Kohavi.

Violence on the streets

A man in his 20s was injured during a violent altercation in the Arab city of Taibe on Saturday evening.

The man was rushed to a nearby hospital with moderate injuries. Security footage that emerged on social media appears to show a group of Israeli men attacking the Arab-Israeli, a worker at a goods store located in a gas station in the city. 

Joint List MK Ahmed Tibi shared the video on his Twitter account, calling for Israel Police to arrest the attackers in what he called a "racist hate crime."

In the South, a 20-year-old resident of the Bedouin town of Hura, near Beersheba, was arrested after throwing stones at a police officer.

The officer was lightly injured.

Shabtai pays visits to injured officers

Israel Police chief Kobi Shabtai visited on Saturday two of the four Border Police’s Counterterrorism Unit officers who were injured during Friday night’s West Bank operation.

One officer was severely injured and underwent a successful operation at Rambam. His condition is now considered stable. Another was lightly injured from gunshot wounds in his lower back. The remaining two officers were lightly injured and were not hospitalized for a prolonged period of time.

The police chief also went to Hillel Yaffe Medical Center in Hadera to pay a visit to the Border Police officers injured while confronting the terrorists who killed two other officers in the city last week. Shabtai then went to offer his condolences to the family of Yazan Falah, one of the two Border Police officers killed during the terror attack.