IDF mobilizing reinforcement battalions to West Bank

Security sources stress move is not a sign of an imminent escalation in security situation in Judea and Samaria.

IDF soldiers in Hebron (photo credit: REUTERS)
IDF soldiers in Hebron
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A Palestinian was killed and two others were wounded in violent clashes with the IDF in the West Bank on Tuesday, as the army deployed a number of back-up battalions to the West Bank to brace for the possibility of additional surges in violence in the coming days.
On Tuesday morning, IDF soldiers shot a Palestinian man who had an improvised weapon during a riot at El-Arroub, southwest of Bethlehem.
According to Palestinian reports, the man died of his wounds after being evacuated to a Palestinian Authority hospital.
An army spokeswoman said some 200 Palestinians had taken part in the riot, hurling rocks at an IDF unit, which responded with nonlethal riot-dispersal means. At one point, the Palestinian man directed what the spokeswoman said was an improvised weapon at soldiers, who felt their lives to be in jeopardy.
As a result, the soldiers responded with live fire.
“We are examining this incident,” the spokeswoman added.
In Sinjil, near Ramallah, 15 Palestinians threw rocks and firebombs at traffic on a road on Tuesday. The IDF fired bullets at the legs of two attackers, striking and wounding them.
A number of battalions have been sent to the West Bank to reinforce security measures there. Security sources stressed that the reinforcement was not a sign of an imminent escalation in the security situation in Judea and Samaria.
One of the battalions sent to the area is from the Golani infantry brigade, which was training in the North prior to being mobilized to the West Bank.
The IDF’s Central Command has also increased patrols along roads in the West Bank.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu updated the security cabinet on decisions that were made in consultation with the IDF, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the Israel Police.
These include boosting security forces and police, demolishing terrorists’ homes, and giving stiffer sentences to those who throw Molotov cocktails and stones – as well as fining their parents if the throwers are minors.
“The terrorism being directed against us knows no borders,” Netanyahu said. “It is trying to uproot us from all parts of the country. From the terrorists’ point of view, we do not need to be in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Gush Etzion or anywhere.”
Nonetheless, he declared, “they will not succeed. Even the attempt by extremist Islamic elements to ignite the ground and cause a religious war will not succeed. We are determined to take all possible action against incitement and escalation; we will take vigorous action against the terrorists.”
At the same time, he went on, “I would like to call on Israel’s Arab citizens: Do not be swept away by propaganda and incitement. Don’t be swept away by an inflamed minority.
You are citizens with equal rights and equal obligations, and the first obligation of any citizen is to respect the law.”
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon visited the IDF’s Etzion Territorial Division, where he said that the defense establishment was preparing for the possibility of an additional security escalation.
“We are familiar with this – that the moment a vehicular terrorist attack succeeds, it seems another will come after it, or if a knifing succeeds, then another will follow. Therefore, we are beefing up [our] forces, to increase our presence and carry out more intensive activities to prevent that,” Ya’alon said.
Palestinian Authority security forces are acting to decrease violence in friction points and are meeting with the IDF, he continued. At the same time, he said, rhetoric from the PA’s leaders in recent days caused an escalation following unrest over the Temple Mount.
Ya’alon said that for the time being, he had asked politicians to refrain from visiting the Temple Mount, so as to lower tensions.
He acknowledged the difficulties of stopping lone attackers, who he said were inspired by incitement to violence.
“Someone receives false information about our activities, particularly on the Temple Mount, and hears false statements.
Then he rises up and takes action,” he said. “All of the attackers recently, as far as we understand, were subject to this incitement.”
Referring to the two murders of Israelis on Monday by Palestinians armed with knives, Ya’alon said each attacker had acted alone and not as part of a wider organization.
“Both are from Judea and Samaria. One is from Hebron, and the other is from Nablus,” he said.
“We are at the peak of an escalation that began with incidents on the Temple Mount a few weeks ago, spreading to Jerusalem, to Judea and Samaria, and other locations in the country, including, unfortunately, to Arab Israelis,” he continued. “We will not let this escalation develop.
Here, in Judea and Samaria, forces have been reinforced in recent days, including in the past 24 hours – firstly to provide a security solution in light of vehicular and knife attacks, and certainly if someone tries to carry out what’s called an organized terror attack.”
The defense minister cited a rise in fire-bombing and rock-throwing in recent days, adding that he hoped reinforcements would help reduce such incidents. Additionally the IDF is carrying out wider arrest operations due to the increased threat of terror attacks, he said.
“We will act with a firm hand, including destroying the homes of terrorists, to stop this wave,” he declared, calling on “anyone who can have an influence, and who has an interest in calm, to calm the situation. I understand that Hamas has no interest in calming the situation, and that perhaps other Islamic elements don’t have an interest in calm, but if the PA has an interest in calm, it should [act accordingly].”
Israel, for its part, is taking steps to deescalate the situation on the Temple Mount, Ya’alon said. It has also beefed up forces around the security barrier to prevent Palestinians from entering the country without permits, and concrete barricades are being built at all main bus stops and hitchhiking posts in the West Bank.
“Yesterday, there was an attempt, first of all, to run over Israelis [in the attack in Gush Etzion], but this failed because of the barricades at the Alon Shvut station. Then it turned into a knifing, which unfortunately ended as it did,” Ya’alon said.
Despite the escalation, he stressed, there are no masses of Palestinians rioting in the streets.
But the defense establishment’s assumption is that there will be further attacks, since the “atmosphere is one of incitement and escalation,” he went on. “Anyone who thinks of carrying out a terrorist attack and becoming a shaheed [martyr], as they call it, could take action, and as a result we will see more incidents of this type.”
Referring to recent IDF shootings of Palestinian rioters, the defense minister said the army had acted correctly.
“Anyone who tries to harm IDF soldiers and threatens their lives – IDF soldiers must strike them,” he said.
Responding to a question about the shooting of the Gush Etzion knife-attacker on Monday, he said it was “clear that anyone who tries to murder a person has to be struck in order to be killed. The fate of any terrorist who raises his hand [against someone], whether he’s holding a knife, or to run someone over, or if he’s carrying a firearm, has to be death, in accordance with the circumstances. This is not a punishment; this is a strike to prevent the murderer’s intentions of killing others from being realized.”
Meanwhile, a security source confirmed that relatives of Mahar Hamadi Hashalamun, the Hebron resident who murdered 26-year-old Dalia Lemkus and wounded two other Israelis in the Gush Etzion attack on Monday, had been arrested.
More Israelis have been murdered in attacks by terrorists from the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the last month than in the past two years combined.
Sgt. Almog Shiloni, 20, from Modi’in, who was killed in Tel Aviv on Monday, and Lemkus were the fifth and sixth fatalities from Palestinian terrorism in the past month, compared to five such deaths in all of 2012 and 2013.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.