Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Sunday that the Israel Defense Forces would respond to every assault on Israelis, one day after undercover commandos killed three Fatah militants behind a terror attack last week, an operation which prompted a request for clarification from the White House.
"We'll continue to defend aggressively and respond to every attack against Israeli citizens and every rocket strike," the prime minister said.
The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades operatives killed in Nablus on Saturday were suspected of shooting 45-year-old Rabbi Meir Hai to death in an attack on his car in the northern West Bank on Thursday.
Police said Sunday, meanwhile, that one of the weapons confiscated by IDF troops during the operation had been used to shoot Rabbi Hai, a resident of a West Bank settlement. Police took the weapons to a criminal identification lab for a ballistics check.
The dead militants are Raad Sarkaji, 38, a Tanzim activist formerly of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades in the Nablus area, who was arrested in 2002 and released at the beginning of this year; Ghassan Abu Shreikh, 40, who was also a former prisoner in Israel, and Adnan Subuh, 33. Security officials said Subuh had four weapons and a hoard of ammunition when he was killed.
U.S. to Israel: Explain killing of Fatah militants
Senior Obama administration officials requested on Saturday that National Security Adviser Uzi Arad explain the IDF raid in Nablus.
Arad shared intelligence with the officials that Israel had received about the militants, who belonged to the military wing of the Western-backed Fatah movement, and the details of the operation on Saturday that led to their deaths.
The national security advisor, a key aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, stressed that this was a case of self-defense, since the three were behind a terror attack on Thursday.
Israeli political sources said the Obama administration did not formally protest or complain about the incident, but only sought clarifications, passing on the Palestinians' complaint.
A senior U.S. official told Haaretz that the United States had attempted to calm both Israel and the Palestinian authority in the wake of the events. "We talked to both sides in order to get full information about what happened," he said. "We expressed our concern and encouraged both sides to continue their security cooperation."
The PA on Saturday complained to the U.S. that during the raid Israel had unjustly invaded area A, for whose security the Palestinians are solely responsible. The PA demanded that the Americans voice their own position on the matter.
Over the weekend, the Palestinians also protested to the coordinator of government activities in the territories, Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, that IDF soldiers had entered area A in Nablus and had not allowed PA security forces to arrest the wanted men.
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