Two Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli security forces in the West Bank as the IDF continues to crack down on terrorism as part of its Operation Break the Wave.
According to the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency, Samer Khaled was killed after he was shot in the neck while sitting in his car in Nablus’s Balata refugee camp. Armed clashes had broken out between Palestinians and Israeli troops that had come to arrest terrorism suspects.
Another Palestinian, Yazan Afaneh, from the Kalandiya refugee camp, was shot in the chest and killed by forces who had entered El-Bireh to carry out additional arrests.
While the Palestinians accuse the IDF of having shot both men, the military only said it “knows of claims of a Palestinian death” during the clashes in El-Bireh, adding that troops had fired shots after they were targeted by live fire in Balata.
Troops arrested six wanted individuals throughout the West Bank overnight, including in the Tulkarm refugee camp, Beit Sira, Ubeidiya and al-’Azi.
During the night, a report was received about an armed suspect and gunfire in Hebron. IDF forces arrived at the spot, identified fleeing suspects and started a chase. During the chase, a loaded M16-type weapon was found along the road where the suspects fled.
The IDF mission to stem West Bank terrorism
The IDF began Operation Break the Wave in April after a series of deadly terrorist attacks by Palestinians and Arabs-Israelis killed 20 people.
In order to bring the current wave of violence to an end, the security establishment – IDF, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and Israel Police – have been focusing on the northern West Bank. They have increased troop presence along the Seam Line where Palestinians have illegally crossed into Israel through holes in the security fence.
The troop deployment, as well as the call-up of reserve forces, is expected to last into the coming year.
Over the four months since it began, more than 2,050 counterterrorism operations have been carried out, during which over 1,000 wanted individuals have been apprehended and hundreds of weapons seized.
The intense operation – which the IDF has likened to the 2002 Operation Defensive Shield that was launched in the West Bank in order to bring an end to the terrorism of the Second Intifada – has seen an increase in gun battles between Israeli security forces and Palestinian gunmen.
Gun battles between Israeli troops, Palestinians on the rise
In May, YAMAM Border Police Officer Noam Raz was killed in clashes with Palestinian gunmen in Jenin. The conflict lasted some four hours as the troops attempted to arrest wanted Palestinian Islamic Jihad member Mahmoud Al-Debai, who had barricaded himself inside a home. A senior IDF officer said Raz was shot in the back as forces were leaving the village under fire.
According to a recent tally by the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry, more than 85 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank and Jerusalem this year by Israeli security forces, either while committing attacks or during clashes. The tally includes those who carried out attacks inside Israel and members of terrorist groups. The number also includes 17 teenagers under the age of 18 and six women.
More than a dozen bystanders have also been killed, including a teenage girl who was returning home from studying, as well as Shireen Abu Akleh, an Al Jazeera journalist who was covering a raid in Jenin.
The heavy clashes between gunmen and troops come as the IDF continues to thwart the smuggling of weapons, from handguns to military-grade rifles, from Jordan into Israel. While hundreds of weapons have been confiscated, many more are able to make their way into the hands of Palestinians in the West Bank who have used them against Israeli civilians and troops.
On Tuesday, troops arrested two Palestinians in the town of Rujeib near Nablus who had been involved in several shooting attacks, including in Shavei Shomron last week when a car was hit by bullets.
Their arrest came several hours after Palestinians shot at five Israeli civilians who had tried to reach Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus without prior coordination with the IDF. Two of the civilians were injured before they were evacuated by troops. There have been several incidents of Israelis being fired upon while at the tomb in recent months.
While terrorist attacks inside Israel have subsided since the launch of Operation Break the Wave, the longer the IDF continues its crackdown on Palestinian terrorist suspects, the greater the likelihood that more people will be killed.