A Palestinian policeman was wounded in the foot during clashes with soldiers from an elite undercover unit in Bethlehem
whose cover was blown while attempting to arrest a fugitive on Tuesday.
Elsewhere in the West Bank, security forces arrested a fugitive, the deputy commander of the Islamic Jihad
in the Jenin
area, who police said was in the midst of planning a suicide bomb attack in Israel
in the coming days. The fugitive was caught hiding in the dormitories of the American University in Zababda, south of Jenin.
The army also released for publication details of the arrest of a Palestinian from Beit Sira
. He was caught by security forces at an impromptu checkpoint near Bir Zeit
, north of Ramallah
, on October 15, with a mortar shell launcher hidden in the trunk of his car.
Israeli security officials told The Jerusalem Post
on Tuesday that ever since the IDF pulled out of the Gaza Strip
, all the terror organizations in the West Bank had intensified efforts to obtain mortar shells and Kassam rockets. The only reason their attempts had so failed was due to the constant IDF presence in West Bank areas, officials said.
"Intelligence gathered on attempts to manufacture rockets and mortar shells leads to the arrests of those involved," one official said. The fact that there were no IDF troops deployed in Gaza allowed terror groups operating there to beef up their attempts to transfer knowledge and instructions to cells operating in the West Bank, the official said.
On Tuesday morning, undercover soldiers entered Bethlehem to arrest a fugitive near the local government headquarters when shots were fired at them. The soldiers fired warning shots in the air, the army said, and then pulled out of the area. While the army has launched a probe into the matter, sources in the Central Command denied Palestinian claims that the policeman was wounded during a gun battle erupted between the sides. The source insisted that the soldiers fired warning shots in the air and did not identify hitting anyone.
Palestinian media reports later said a policeman was wounded in the foot. Bethlehem police commander Issa Hejo accused Israel of provoking the clash and said the Israeli security forces initiated the gun battle after they fired shots at a Palestinian Police checkpoint.
Bethlehem has not yet been handed over to Palestinian security control. The last time Israeli and Palestinian Authority
officials met to discuss the transfer was in July. However, the sides have yet to reach a decision over the matter. Israel is willing to hand over security control of the city, but the PA demands security of the city and surrounding villages.
Late Monday night, security forces arrested Ashraf Awidat,19, who was caught hiding in the dormitories of the American College in Zababda, south of Jenin. In recent months, Ashraf was an aide to Islamic Jihad commander Iyad Abu Roub, who was arrested by security forces last week in Jenin. According to security officials, Ashraf recruited activists as well as would-be suicide bombers on behalf of the Islamic Jihad. Officials also suspect his involvement in the suicide bomb attack at Hadera
last month in which six Israelis were killed.
Mohammed Haj, 45 of Beit Sira, who was the local Fatah
secretary, was arrested by security forces manning a checkpoint at Bir Zeit last month after a mortar shell launcher was found in the trunk of his car.
Details released on Tuesday revealed that Haj, a father of 10, was among those permitted to return from abroad, in a deal struck after the signing of the Oslo Accords.