Israel prepared for possible terror attacks, Gaza rocket fire after Nablus raid

Israeli forces surrounded a house in the city to arrest suspects hiding in the building.

 Palestinians clash with Israeli forces during a raid in Nablus in the West Bank, February 22, 2023.  (photo credit: REUTERS/RANEEN SAWAFTA)
Palestinians clash with Israeli forces during a raid in Nablus in the West Bank, February 22, 2023.

The defense establishment is preparing for possible revenge attacks and rocket fire from the Gaza Strip after 11 Palestinians were killed and over 100 others were injured in armed clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces in Nablus on Wednesday. Leaders in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas and the Lion's Den movements were among those killed.

Six rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip towards Ashkelon and Israeli communities near the Gaza strip and were intercepted by the IDF early on Thursday morning.

A senior Israeli security source noted that tensions have been high since last year and that there is a possibility that the raid could be the spark that ignites an escalation. The defense establishment is preparing for possible ripple effects from the operation such as revenge terrorist attacks in the West Bank, Jerusalem and the interior or rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

After the operation, Israel Police raised the level of alert throughout the country and reinforced its forces near the Seam Line, in Jerusalem and in central areas in light of the concerns of possible revenge attacks.

Cell behind murder of IDF soldier Ido Baruch killed in clashes

Israeli forces, including the Border Police's Yamam counterterrorism unit, Shin Bet officers and IDF soldiers, entered the city to arrest three terrorists involved in the planning of shooting attacks intended for the near future and the shooting attack in which IDF St.-Sgt. Ido Baruch was murdered in October, along with other attacks against Israeli forces.

Baruch, a soldier in the Givati Brigade, was shot by terrorists near the Shavei Shomron settlement in Samaria on October 11. Two other members of the cell that murdered Baruch were arrested by the IDF last week.

Palestinians clash with Israeli forces during a raid in Nablus in the West Bank, February 22, 2023.  (credit: REUTERS/RANEEN SAWAFTA)Palestinians clash with Israeli forces during a raid in Nablus in the West Bank, February 22, 2023. (credit: REUTERS/RANEEN SAWAFTA)

After surrounding the building where the terrorists were hiding, a firefight broke out between them and the Israeli forces during which the three terrorists were shot and killed. Explosions and heavy gunfire were heard in the area during the raid.

Over 100 security personnel were involved in the operation in Nablus, according to a senior security source. During the operation, Palestinians on motorcycles and in cars fired at Israeli forces throughout the city. The source stressed that the Palestinians killed in the clashes were armed and firing at Israeli forces and that the circumstances of the reported deaths of two elderly Palestinians were still being clarified.

The three wanted terrorists were identified by the IDF as Muhammad Fatah, a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement, Walid Dakhil, a member of the Lion's Den terrorist group, and Hussam Aslim, one of the leaders of the Lion's Den group. Aslim gave the order to the two terrorists arrested last week to conduct the terrorist attack in which Baruch was murdered.

According to Palestinian reports, Aslim was also a member of Hamas.

Two firearms and ammunition were seized during the raid as well. Two IDF soldiers were lightly injured by ricochets from shots fired during the clashes and were transferred for treatment. Their families have been notified.

According to the Palestinian Authority's Health Ministry, aside for Aslim, Dahil, and Fatah, the Palestinians killed in the clashes included Adnan Sabaa Ba'ara, age 72, Abd al-Hadi Abd al-Aziz Ashqar, age 61, Muhammad Khaled Anbousi, age 25, Tamer Nimer Ahmed Minawi, age 33, Musab Munir Muhammad Awais, age 26 and a leader of a local terrorist group called the Balata Brigade, Muhammad Farid Shaaban, age 16, Jasser Jamil Abdel-Wahhab Qaneer, age 23 and Anan Shawkat Annab, 66.

On Wednesday evening, Israeli forces surrounded a building in the town of Beit Kad near Jenin to arrest additional suspects, according to Palestinian reports.

Hamas warns it is "losing patience"

"The resistance in Gaza is watching the enemy's escalating crimes against our people in the occupied West Bank, and its patience is running out," warned the spokesman of Hamas's Al-Qassam Brigades, Abu Obeida.

Secretary-General of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement Ziyad al-Nakhala called the raid in Nablus a "major crime," saying "it is our duty as resistance forces to respond to this crime without hesitation.". 

On Wednesday afternoon, Palestinians began burning tires near the Israeli border in the Malaka Camp east of Gaza City, according to Palestinian reports.

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem condemned the raid, stating "The occupation escalates its aggression against our people by storming today the city of Nablus and besieging the citizens."

"The right-wing, fascist, Zionist government is concerned with escalating the situation on the ground, as it has a criminal terrorist agenda," added Qassem.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement warned that "We affirm that the pure blood of the martyrs of Nablus will not be wasted, and that the occupation's goals behind this aggression will fail. The resistance continues and the fighting continues, and the enemy must wait for the resistance's response at every moment and from anywhere."

The spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also condemned the raid, saying that Israel is "responsible for this dangerous escalation, which is pushing the region toward tension and an explosive situation."

The Hadash-Ta'al party condemned the raid on Wednesday evening, calling the operation a "war crime."

"While in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem they are fighting these days over the character of democracy, in Nablus they are fighting for life itself," said the party. "The government which is failing in the eyes of the public takes out its frustration on the most available victims, the Palestinians."

After the operation, the Palestinian Authority decided to call for an emergency session at the UN Security Council to request international protection. 

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price warned on Wednesday evening that the US is "extremely concerned" by the escalation in violence in Israel and the West Bank.

"Today in Nablus, at least 10 Palestinians including both militants and civilian bystanders were killed and over 100 injured during an IDF counterterrorism operation. We wish a speedy recovery to those injured and our hearts go out to the families of the innocent bystanders who were killed today," said Price. "We recognize the very real security concerns facing Israel, at the same time we are deeply concerned by the large number of injuries and the loss of civilian lives."

Price added that the US had productive conversations with the two sides and US regional partners in support of efforts to prevent further violence. "We also call on all parties to desist from actions that inflame tensions such as incitement to violence, evictions of families from their homes, demolitions, settlement advancements and the legalization of outposts."

UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned against the escalation of violence in the region during a meeting of the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People on Wednesday, stating "Two months into the new year, violence rages on without reprieve. Tensions are sky-high. Deadly cycles of violence keep accelerating. And the peace process remains stalled."

"The situation in Jerusalem/Al-Quds is becoming more fragile amidst provocations and acts of violence in and around the Holy Sites. It radiates instability across the region and beyond."

Guterres stressed that "Each new settlement is another roadblock on the path to peace...At the same time, incitement to violence is a dead end. Our immediate priority must be to prevent further escalation, reduce tensions and restore calm."

Egypt's Foreign Ministry condemned the violence on Wednesday, stating "Egypt expressed its deep concern about the ongoing and dangerous escalation the occupied Palestinian territories have been recently witnessing, which complicates and worsens the situation every day, undermines efforts to achieve calm between the Palestinian and Israeli sides, and affects the chances of reviving the peace process in accordance with international legitimacy resolutions and the principle of the two-state solution."

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Ministry also condemned the raid, affirming "the Kingdom's total rejection of the severe violations of international law by the Israeli occupation forces, stressing its call on the international community to assume its responsibilities to end the occupation, stop the escalation and Israeli aggressions and provide the necessary protection for civilians."

Jordan's Foreign Ministry issued a condemnation of the raid as well, saying that Jordan is working "intensively" with all parties to deescalate the situation.

The UAE also condemned the raid calling on Israeli authorities to reduce the escalation and avoid steps that exacerbate tension and instability in the region.

Omri Nahmias contributed to this report.