Israeli Operations in West Bank Focused on Terrorist Threats, Says Gantz, Amid Risk of ‘Escalation’
Stepped-up operations by Israeli forces in the West Bank are focused on stopping security threats, Israel’s defense minister emphasized Monday, after the army made 13 arrests of terror suspects and faced riots during a series of raids.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have in recent days increased operations in the Palestinian territories following a string of deadly terrorist attacks that took the lives of 14 people. Over the weekend, in the northern West Bank city of Jenin, the IDF raided the residence of the perpetrator in Thursday’s deadly Tel Aviv shooting, and closed the key area checkpoints of Jalameh and Rihan, preventing Jenin residents from traveling to Israel.
“Israeli forces are employing intelligence activities to be as precise as we can and intercept those who need to be intercepted. We try to separate as much as possible between the terrorists that we are fighting against and the population, and between the different geographical environments,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said at an online webinar with the Washington Institute Near East Policy forum. “Terrorist activity is prevalent in the Jenin area, which is why Jenin is under extensive operational activity, including a direct hit to its economy.”
Earlier on Monday, the IDF joined forces with the Shin Bet in counterterrorism operations in the towns of Burqa and Qallil, where IDF soldiers arrested eight suspects and confiscated four vehicles and two guns.
During the raids, dozens of Palestinians initiated violent riots in Qallil, the IDF said, burning tires and hurling rocks at Israeli soldiers. The army said no injuries were reported.
IDF soldiers also arrested two Hamas terrorist operatives at two locations in the city of Hebron. Separately, Israeli troops apprehended two suspects in the town of Al Aroub who previously hurled firebombs at civilians on Route 60, as well as two suspects in the towns of Bruqin and Meithalun, south of Jenin.
The suspects and confiscated weapons were transferred to Israeli security forces for further inspection, the IDF said.
On Monday, Gantz also pointed to the Palestinian Authority’s condemnation of the recent wave of terror attacks.
“Having said that, some of the officials are inciting terror — mainly in the area of Jenin, and this affects both Palestinians and Israelis. I hope to see concrete action by the Palestinian Authority,” he remarked. “We obviously won’t be waiting for them, but we will try to maintain communication with them as much as much as possible.”
“There is the risk of escalation into a wider campaign in Gaza, or some events in Lebanon,” Gantz cautioned.
The defense minister added that Israel should still continue to strengthen ties with the Palestinian Authority, from the state level to the operational level.
“This is very important. We must continue our security coordination with the Palestinian Authority,” he said. “We should continue with confidence-building measures with the Palestinian Authority to increase work permits, building approval, industrial zones, developing everything in our capacity to make sure that we have good relations with them.”