Israeli security forces prepare for tense Passover

The IDF has reinforced troops in the West Bank with 16 combat battalions.

IDF operates along the Seam Line as repairs take place, April, 2022 (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
IDF operates along the Seam Line as repairs take place, April, 2022
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

Israeli security forces are gearing up for a tense Passover holiday, deploying hundreds of IDF troops and police officers. The military has also imposed a general closure on the West Bank and Gaza Strip for the weekend.

The closure, which will last from 4 p.m. on Friday until midnight Saturday, follows a situational assessment carried out by Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) head Maj.-Gen. Ghassan Aliyan.

Another assessment will be held on Saturday evening when officials will discuss whether the closure will continue for the rest of the holiday week.

During the closure, humanitarian and medical cases will be subject to COGAT approval. The officials also agreed to reopen the Gilboa and Reihan crossings to Israeli Arabs entering the city of Jenin, which was closed last week. Businessmen and merchants will also once again be able to cross into Israel.

“We are definitely in a sensitive security situation,” Gantz told reporters on Thursday, adding that “there are also casualties on the Palestinian side.

 Palestinian gunmen take part in the funeral of two Palestinians who were shot dead by Israeli security forces  during clashes, during their funeral in Jenin, in the West Bank, March 31, 2022.  (credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90) Palestinian gunmen take part in the funeral of two Palestinians who were shot dead by Israeli security forces during clashes, during their funeral in Jenin, in the West Bank, March 31, 2022. (credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)

“There were a number of terror attacks that claimed Israeli victims and there is also a lot of operational activity that we try to carry out in a targeted manner,” he said.

Sixteen Palestinians have been killed in the past two weeks, six in the past two days in the West Bank, including 14-year-old Qusai Fuad Hamamra,who threw a Molotov cocktail at troops in Husan near Bethlehem on Wednesday night.

Six other Palestinians have been killed, two in Jenin and three others in Silwad near Ramallah during clashes with security forces who were carrying out arrest raids. Another Palestinian died of his wounds after being shot during clashes in Beita on Wednesday.

The two men killed in Jenin were identified in Palestinian media as Shas Kamaji and Mustafa Abu Al-Rub. Kamaji was the brother of Ayham Kamaji, one of the six Gilboa Prison escapees who is in jail for two consecutive life sentences for kidnapping and shooting 18-year-old Eliyahu Asheri in 2006.

A total of 18 Palestinians were arrested by security forces who carried out arrest raids throughout the night and morning in several areas of the West Bank including Balata, Hebron and Beit Umar.

GANTZ SAID the raids and other missions will continue over the coming days and that he is carrying out ongoing assessments in order to examine the policy of using force “in the North, the South, along the Seam Line and deep inside the territory of Judea and Samaria.”

Over the last 48 hours, on the recommendation of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) the defense minister signed six administrative detention orders for Arabs living in east Jerusalem and northern Israel.

In total, 19 administrative arrest warrants have been issued in the past three weeks, including two for Israeli Jews.

Over the weekend, thousands of Israelis are expected to visit the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron where clashes have broken out between Palestinians and IDF troops.

The Israel Police said that forces would be deployed to the city “to maintain security and public order, to respond to incidents and to maintain order on the roads.” Heavy traffic is expected on routes 60 and 35.

Due to the tension, the military has reinforced troops in the West Bank with 16 combat battalions including special forces from commando units.

The huge increase in troops allows the military to carry out offensive operations in the West Bank and deploy troops along the security barrier in order to prevent Palestinians from crossing into Israel through holes in the fence.

Troops have been given clear instructions to prevent any and all Palestinians from illegally crossing into Israel and have been ordered to fire at the lower body of those who attempt to cross, if necessary.

On Wednesday, leaflets were dropped in Jenin warning locals that anyone approaching the security fence “puts his life in immediate danger.”

Officers from the Shin Bet are also working alongside troops from Military Intelligence Unit 8200 to scan social networks and other sources in order to identify potential attackers and stop them ahead of time. Combat intelligence units have also focused their attention on the area.

Meanwhile, US Vice President Kamala Harris told President Isaac Herzog on Thursday that the United States condemned the “recent terrorist attacks” in Israel.

“The vice president condemned these terrorist attacks in the strongest terms and underscored that US support for Israel’s security and self-defense is unwavering,” the White House said in a statement after their call.

Eliav Breuer and Reuters contributed to this report.