IDF artillery continued on Friday intensive shelling of northern Gaza sites from which Kassam rockets were launched earlier Friday.
Meanwhile, in the West Bank, shots were fired at soldiers near the Awarta checkpoint south of Nablus
In A-Dik, southeast of Kalkilya
, soldiers arrested a fugitive affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
. During the same operation, soldiers shot at and lightly wounded another fugitive spotted fleeing from his home as a soldier arrived to search the premises and arrest him.
The fugitive, who suffered from gunshot wounds to the legs, was taken by the Palestinian Red Crescent
to a local hospital.
In the Jordan Valley, soldiers manning the Taisir checkpoint near Tubas uncovered three large knives and the remains of two mortar shells while searching a Palestinian car. Two passengers were detained for questioning and informed security officials that the mortar shell remains were stolen from an IDF firing range.
Before dawn on Friday, Palestinians fired two Kassam rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel
. They exploded in an area near Kibbutz Karmia
, south of Ashkelon
. Southern command officials said the rockets were launched from an area south of the former Dugit settlement in northern Gaza, outside the designated no-go zone.
As part of ongoing operations to nab Islamic Jihad
fugitives and destroy the terror organizations' infrastructure, security forces arrested overnight Thursday 11 fugitives affiliated with the group.
Four were arrested in Nablus, two in Ilar, north of Tulkarm
, one in Jelazoun, north of Ramallah
, two in Abadya, east of Bethlehem
, and two in a village north of Bethlehem. The recent sweep of arrests was carried out in addition to operations conducted against the terror infrastructure in Jenin on Thursday.
On Thursday, disaster was averted when a Palestinian suicide bomber blew up near security forces operating in Jenin to nab Islamic Jihad fugitives. Aside from the bomber, no one was killed and no damage reported.
Prior to the incident, troops shot and killed an armed Palestinian fugitive who opened fire at them. The army said it had no knowledge of a third Palestinian who was killed by security forces, despite the Palestinian media reports that claimed otherwise.
The two dead Palestinians were senior commanders of Islamic Jihad involved in numerous attacks, including the murder of an IDF officer near a Tulkarm checkpoint several weeks ago, security officials said.
The suicide bomber was identified as Muataz Khalil and the armed fugitive Ali Abu Hizme.
After nightfall troops were removing large stockpiles of weapons, ammunition and explosives from the building from which the two emerged.
The operation began close to noon, when soldiers of the Nahal Brigade
, the elite Duvdevan unit and undercover Border Police units surrounded two buildings, where senior Islamic Jihad fugitives, including the local commander Nasser a-Sbah, were believed to be hiding. The reports claimed that IDF bulldozers were used to force fugitives hiding inside the buildings to flee outside.
Three Palestinian fugitives came out of one of the houses and surrendered to troops. Shortly after, a fugitive wearing a flak jacket came out of the second house and opened fire at troops, who returned fire killing him. Minutes later, the bomber emerged and blew himself up. A third fugitive hiding in the house then surrendered.
Meanwhile a senior IDF officer said Thursday that while there were currently no terror threats emanating from Nablus and the surrounding area, it did not signify a change in terrorists' intentions to launch attacks against Israel.
All the terror organizations operating in the Samaria
region were doing their utmost to improve their capabilities, including obtaining the components needed to construct Kassam rockets, mortar shells and anti-tank rockets, the officer said.
The year 2005 saw a 50% decrease in attacks stemming from the Nablus area, mainly due to the constant IDF presence and ongoing operations directed against terror organizations operating in the region, the officer said. A blockade imposed on Nablus is still in effect, and traffic to and from the city monitored by soldiers manning the checkpoints, the officer said.
In 2005, security forces arrested a total of 377 fugitives in the Nablus area, some of them involved in plans to launch attacks against Israel, he said.
With the Palestinian Authority
elections due to take place in less than two weeks, preparations are already under way between the army and Civil Administration officials and the Palestinians, he said. This includes the deployment of Palestinian police and the transfer of ballot boxes to the polling stations.
On the day, the army will refrain from initiating operations, but will arrest any fugitives caught at IDF checkpoints, he said.
Elsewhere in the West Bank on Thursday, security forces arrested 23 Palestinian fugitives in operations conducted in Bethlehem and the surrounding area, Nablus, Tulkarm and Dhahiriya
west of Hebron
Before dawn, IDF artillery units shelled the north Gaza "no-go zone" near Dugit, after Palestinians were spotted firing a Kassam rocket at the western Negev. The army said the rocket exploded near Zikim. No one was wounded and no damage reported.