A Palestinian terror suspect was killed on Tuesday morning in Bil'in after clashes with Israeli counter-terrorism forces who were attempting to arrest him.
According to an initial report by forces on the ground, the man, identified as Mohammed A'atzi, was one of the people behind the bus bombing in Tel Aviv during Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012.
A'atzi, a 28-year-old resident of Beit Lakia in the West Bank, was imprisoned several times in the past due to his involvement in Islamic Jihad. Shin Bet officials said that since the Tel Aviv bus bombing last November in which 29 civilians were wounded, A'atzi was in hiding. Recently, Shin Bet forces were able to locate him.
Early Tuesday morning, forces from Israel Police's Yamam counter-terrorism unit came to the Palestinian village in order to arrest A'atzi, but he managed to escape to a cave where he remained for several hours. A'atzi opened fire at the police forces, but they returned fire and shot him to death.
During the operation, Israeli forces arrested two Palestinians who were believed to be A'atzi's associates. The first is Mohammed Sais Yalid, 30, and the second is Abdullah Abu A'atzi, 22. The two had served time in Israeli prison in the past for their involvement in Islamic Jihad. They were detained and brought in for questioning by the Shin Bet.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon toured Hebron on Tuesday morning and commented on the incident, calling it "an important operation."
"There was a series of six attacks in the last month, some of them clearly nationalistically-motivated," he said. "It may be that the atmosphere – the incitement by the Palestinian Authority, recent religious incidents, or any other reason – brought about this wave [of attacks]."
"We are of course preparing for any kind of escalation, but a popular uprising? We do not see any motivation or organization for that."
A senior IDF officer also commented on Tuesday on recent events in the West Bank. "Not only below the surface but also above the surface, things are not as usual," the officer said. "We are seeing a negative trend, incident after incident… there is an atmosphere of terror attacks."
Last month, Israel Defense Forces soldiers killed a wanted Palestinian militant during a raid in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank.
Soldiers from the IDF's special police unit opened fire on the suspect when he tried to escape during their attempts to detain him, the military said. The suspect was seriously wounded and died in hospital.
A Palestinian security source identified the victim as Islam al-Tubasi. The militant group Islamic Jihad issued a statement mourning Tubasi as one of its members.
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