Tense calm prevails in North

West Bank terror groups continue attempts to launch attacks.

The IDF beefed up its presence in the north, where a high level of alert remained in effect on Monday due to warnings of plans by Hizbullah to heat up the situation and launch attacks against Israel. In recent weeks, Hizbullah has increased its presence in outposts close to the border, and appears to be gearing up for violence, security officials said.
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The officials estimate that, with the results of the inquiry into the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri imminent, Syria may instruct Hizbullah to escalate its activities and attack Israel in order to distract the world from the results of the probe and its implications. Several roads located close to the northern border fence were blocked off by troops, and for the second day farmers whose plots are in close proximity to the border were barred from tending their fields. The last time the army went on such a high alert was in November, after soldiers thwarted an attempt by Hizbullah gunmen to attack and abduct soldiers in Ghajar. The high state of alert was imposed on Sunday following security assessments in the Northern Command and intelligence information received that Hizbullah planned to kidnap Israeli civilians or soldiers. The general closure imposed on Saturday night in Gaza and the West Bank that will remain in place until Wednesday failed to deter attempts by terrorists to launch attacks. The precautions were taken due to fears that terrorists may attempt to launch attacks during the Purim holiday and the weeks leading up to Israel's elections. Out of the scores of warnings registered by the security establishment, 11 relate to concrete plans by terrorists to launch attacks. On Monday evening, Givati Brigade soldiers caught five Palestinians, one armed with a grenade, attempting to cross into Israel via the central Gaza security fence north of the Kissufim crossing. The five were overpowered by soldiers and handed over to the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) for questioning. At the Kalandiya checkpoint north of Jerusalem, security forces arrested two Palestinians after they were caught carrying a 50 centimeter sword and a number of bullets. The weapon and ammunition were confiscated, and the two were handed over to security officials for questioning. South of Nablus at the Hawara checkpoint, soldiers arrested a Palestinian found carrying a knife. He was handed over to security officials for questioning. Meanwhile, security officials believe that the 20 kilogram bomb intercepted by soldiers searching two Palestinian teens at the Beit Iba checkpoint west of Nablus on Sunday night was to have been used in an attack in Israel. According to Central Command sources, soldiers of the Haruv Battalion manning the position became suspicious of the Palestinians' behavior and stopped them for inspection. The two were asked to place the bags they were carrying on the ground. In one of them, soldiers spotted an olive jar with wires protruding from it. The two Palestinians, aged 19 and 16, were arrested and Palestinians at the checkpoint were distanced from the site until Border Police sappers blew up the bomb. The two teens later told security officials that they had been asked to smuggle the bomb out of Nablus and hand it over to someone waiting on the other side. The two were handed over to the Shin Bet for questioning. A tight blockade imposed on Nablus several weeks ago remains in effect due to terrorist activity in the city. Residents are, however, permitted to exit and enter the city via the checkpoints located on its outskirts. In Jenin, a special Border Police unit arrested Samar Abu Al Haja, a senior Islamic Jihad commander. A Kalashnikov rifle was found during a search in his home. During the operation, shots were fired and a bomb detonated near IDF units deployed in the city. No one was wounded and no damage reported. Elsewhere in the West Bank, security forces arrested 13 Palestinian fugitives affiliated with Hamas and Fatah Tanzim in operations in Bethlehem, Ramallah, Khirbat Alya south of Bethlehem, Jenin, and Kabatiya south of Jenin. Haruv Battalion commander Lt.-Col. Arik Hen said that, while there there were general warnings stemming from Nablus of plans by terrorists to launch attacks, no concrete information had been received regarding the checkpoint.