IDF to step up targeted killings

Defense minister: Purim closure in W. Bank extended till next week.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz instructed the IDF on Thursday to step up targeted killings and anti-terror operations in the West Bank in order to thwart terrorist activities, including retaliatory attacks in response to the IDF's extended raid into Jericho on Tuesday. "The Jericho operation sent a clear message to the other side that Israel will not compromise when it comes to its national security principles," Mofaz said during a security consultation at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv. "We will demonstrate resolve until we achieve our goal." Due to intelligence indicating terror groups were planning attacks against Israel, Mofaz decided that the closure imposed on the West Bank over the Purim holiday would continue until the beginning of next week. The defense minister also ordered IDF commanders to warn their soldiers about the threat of abduction by terror groups. In the course of ongoing operations throughout the West Bank, IDF paratrooper St.-Sgt. Ido Shapira, 20, was shot and killed on Thursday during a heavy exchange of gunfire between soldiers and Palestinian terrorists in Jenin. In advance of the Israeli general elections scheduled for March 28, Mofaz decided that security forces would deploy throughout the country starting Sunday, March 26, in order to prevent the infiltration of terrorists into Israel and the disruption of the vote. "We need to ensure that terror will not influence the democratic process in Israel," Mofaz said. In addition, the defense minister instructed the IDF on Thursday to open the Kerem Shalom crossing in the southern Gaza Strip starting Sunday in order to allow agricultural goods, food and humanitarian assistance in and out of the strip. The opening of Kerem Shalom was meant to replace the Karni Terminal, which has been closed recently. Palestinians have refused to use the Kerem Shalom crossing, declaring that Karni would be the only terminal they were willing to use.