The IDF increased the number of combat soldiers in the West Bank on Friday after two Palestinians were killed and a third seriously wounded after opening fire toward a Border Police officer base in the northern West Bank.The Head of the Central Command Maj.-Gen. Tamir Yadai called it “a major attack” that was “prevented thanks to the sharp, determined and professional combat efforts of the Border Police officers.”The three terrorists, all armed with Carlo submachine guns and knives, opened fire on the gate of the Salem base near Jenin before being shot by Border police. There were no injuries to any Israeli forces; the third Palestinian attacker was evacuated to Emek Medical Center in Afula.
“The terrorists fired at the gate of the base. Border Police officers and an IDF soldier responded by firing and neutralizing the three terrorists,” Israel police said in a statement.Sergeant S. said she and her soldiers identified the three armed men running toward them when she opened fire, hitting two of them.“We loaded our weapons and grabbed cover as we responded with gunfire. During the gunfire we heard bullets whizzing over our heads,” she said, adding that “we prevented another attack that could have been much more serious.”The three attackers, all 21-years-old with no prior history of terror, boarded a bus full of illegal Palestinian workers on their way to central Israel. The bus was stopped by border police officers as part of routine efforts to prevent illegal workers from crossing. The occupants were brought to the Salem outpost where the three opened fire.There was no prior intelligence about an attack and the driver didn’t know that they were planning to carry one out.It is believed that the three were on their way to carry out an attack in Jerusalem on the last day of Ramadan.Later in the day IDF combat troops scanned several areas in the Menashe regional division in the West Bank, including where the attackers were from near Tulkaram.
The attack came as Israeli security forces increased their alert level and sent two and a half extra battalions for reinforcements, as a number of flashpoint events centered on Jerusalem are set to take place.
Earlier in the day, the Border Police arrested a 27-year-old Hebron resident for attempting to carry out a stabbing attack in the Cave of the Patriarchs. The woman approached the checkpoint, appearing stressed and frightened, and upon inspection a knife was found in her bag.
Though the IDF had already bolstered its troops for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, concerned that violence might erupt, the deadly shooting attack and a rare statement threatening Israel by Hamas terror chief Mohamed Deif led the military to prepare for a range of possible scenarios, both in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Incendiary balloons launched from the blockaded coastal enclave have resumed in recent days, setting fire to agricultural land in southern Israel.
Jerusalem Day and Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Power), a major holy night of Ramadan, fall on Sunday evening. Eid al-Fitr is on Wednesday, marking the end of Ramadan. Quds (Jerusalem) Day, a holiday made up by Iran to express support for Palestinians against Israel, is on Friday, and Nakba Day, on which Palestinians mark the “catastrophe” of Israel’s establishment, is on Saturday.
Those commemorations are compounded by the cancellation of the Palestinian elections and the possible culmination of a longstanding property dispute between Jews and Arabs with the eviction of dozens of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, known as Shimon Hatzadik in Hebrew, putting police and the IDF on high alert for clashes and additional attacks.
Deif, the head of Hamas’s armed wing the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam brigades, warned that should the evictions take, place Israel would “pay a heavy price.”
“This is our final warning: If the aggression against our people in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood does not stop immediately, we will not stand idly by – and the occupation will pay a heavy price,” he warned.
The IDF’s Central Command has been on guard for attacks by Hamas supporters in the West Bank, where the Fatah Party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas risked losing power to the Islamist group had elections taken place.
Hamas called the cancellation of the elections a “coup,” and according to Walla News, the terror group is expected to try to provoke riots.Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.