Security forces on high alert as terror attack threat during holidays rises

Increased police operations will include the deployment of thousands of police officers at road checkpoints, shopping and entertainment centers, synagogues and gathering areas all over the country.

 Israeli chief of Police Kobi Shabtai attends Constitution Committee meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament in Jerusalem, on June 15, 2022. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Israeli chief of Police Kobi Shabtai attends Constitution Committee meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament in Jerusalem, on June 15, 2022.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The IDF has sent reinforcements to the northern West Bank ahead of the High Holy Days, as violence continues to rage in the West Bank and Israeli cities.

As security forces increase their alert level, an extra battalion of Golani forces will be immediately deployed to the northern West Bank in the face of a rise in shooting attacks in the area by Palestinian gunmen.

"Starting from Saturday night, police vigilance will be raised to the highest level throughout the country until the end of the holiday period."

Police Chief Kobi Shabtai

Additional battalions will be sent to other parts of the West Bank during the holidays to prevent attacks.

Though the defense establishment does not believe the high number of attacks can be described as an intifada, security forces, including the IDF, police and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), have increased their level of alertness due to the high threat level.

There have been about 10 attacks this past week, with at least two shooting attacks identified in the northern West Bank early on Thursday. Shots were fired toward the settlement of Har Bracha near Nablus, as well as toward a nearby military post. The shooter managed to escape, but the IDF found at least 60 shell casings during sweeps.

The Palestinian terrorist group Lions Den later claimed responsibility for the shootings, posting a video on Twitter.

In another incident, a Palestinian man in his 30s rammed through the security checkpoint at Ben-Gurion Airport at around 1:15 a.m., causing the airport to go on alert until police apprehended him.

The man, from the Ramallah area, was in Israel illegally and had stolen a car from nearby Bat Yam. After he crashed through the checkpoint, the security guard fired one shot toward the vehicle but the driver managed to escape. He was later captured hiding in bushes.

While there were no injuries or damages in the incidents overnight, they come amid a rise in violent terror attacks against IDF targets and Israeli citizens.

Murder in Holon

On Tuesday, an 85-year-old woman was brutally killed in Holon by a Palestinian who entered Israel legally and was working at a nearby construction site. The attacker, 28-year-old Moussa Sarsour, was later found hanged in an abandoned building on Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street.

According to Hebrew-language reports, the Palestinian Health Ministry recommended a month before the attack that Sarsour be hospitalized in a psychiatric ward in Bethlehem, following a violent confrontation he had with the staff at a clinic near his home.

Illegal weapons

Earlier this month, a Palestinian who had crossed illegally into Israel was caught in Jaffa with a Carlo Gustav submachine gun and two pipe bombs. A military bus in the Jordan Valley also came under heavy gunfire, with seven people injured, including one soldier who was seriously wounded.

Interior Minister Omer Bar-Lev warned on Thursday that the heightened tensions may continue in the near future.

“This tense period may last for many more weeks, during which terrorists and their emissaries will strive to reach cities and towns to harm and kill us,” Barlev said at a ceremony marking the New Year. “But they will find police officers facing them, deployed all over the country, determined, brave and aware of the magnitude of their task.”

According to Ynet, Prime Minister Yair Lapid was presented with about 70 concrete warnings about imminent attacks during the holidays.

Police Superintendent Kobi Shabtai said on Thursday that due to the high number of warnings, the police will deploy 20,000 officers across the country including at shopping centers, synagogues, and checkpoints on highways.

Though the rise in vigilance will be across the country, there will be an emphasis on Jerusalem and the West Bank.

“Terrorist organizations do not stop for a moment to try and harm the citizens of Israel,” Shabtai said. “If not by missiles then by terrorists, if not organized then by individuals, and if not by means of the media then through wild incitement on the net. In the face of these attempts, we are doing everything together with our partners in the IDF and Shin Bet to thwart the intentions of these terrorist organizations and to damage their sources of funding and incitement.”

The West Bank and Gaza crossings will be closed during the holidays, beginning on Sunday at 4 p.m., and lasting until midnight on Tuesday. The closures for Yom Kippur will begin on October 4 at midnight and last until midnight on October 5.

Operation Break the Wave

For close to 200 days, security forces have been carrying out nightly arrests in the West Bank as part of Operation Break the Wave, in an attempt to thwart additional terrorist attacks. More than 1,500 Palestinians engaged in terrorist activity have been arrested in recent months as part of the operation.

Though Operation Break the Wave is being carried out across the West Bank, security forces have focused on the northern part and cities like Jenin and Nablus, where a third of all arrests have taken place.

In addition to organized terror groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, local cells of young people without any clear organizational affiliation, and who are active on social media networks like TikTok, have been identified as trying to instigate attacks. The army has also identified attempts by groups outside Israel as trying to promote terrorist attacks in the West Bank and inside Israel.

Col. Roi Zweig, former Samaria Regional Brigade commander, warned on Wednesday during his change-of-command ceremony that the “significant escalation” taking place in the West Bank cannot be ignored, and the IDF needs to expand its types of responses against attackers. The operational reality in northern Samaria has changed. Terrorist firing squads are popping up like mushrooms after the rain.”

Meanwhile, due to the relative quiet in Gaza, the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) announced that Defense Minister Benny Gantz has decided to raise the number of work permits for the territory by an additional 1,500 for a total of 17,000 permits.

The move will come into effect after Rosh Hashanah, “on condition that the security situation remains quiet in the area,” read a statement.

Gantz has also made a decision to allow for the maximum number of permits to reach 20,000 in the near future.

Following the 11-day Operation Guardian of the Walls last year, Israeli officials pledged to ease some restrictions on Gaza’s civilian population in exchange for quiet in the South.

Though the conflict has been widely criticized, the IDF has lauded the operation as the reason for the significant decrease in rocket fire toward the home front over the past year, and why the terrorist group did not join Islamic Jihad during Operation Breaking Dawn.

Nevertheless, the increase in work permits was reportedly opposed by Shin Bet head Ronen Bar, who prefers to place additional sanctions on Hamas for promoting terrorist activity in the West Bank.

Roman Meitav and Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.