The Israel Defense Forces will no longer exercise restraint with regard to Islamic Jihad militants because their attacks demonstrate they do not consider themselves bound by a truce agreement, a senior IDF officer said Tuesday.
Israeli security forces arrested Monday night 50 Islamic Jihad militants, not all of them considered "ticking time bombs," as part of a crackdown on the group following their recent terror attacks on settlements.
"Islamic Jihad has taken itself absolutely out of the [cease-fire] agreement with its attacks, and so from our view, we are operating fully against them, as we did before," said Lt. Col. Erez Winner, a senior commander in the West Bank. "Anyone we know who is affiliated with this organization is a legitimate target."
Twenty-four of the militants were arrested near Hebron in the West Bank, 12 in Bethlehem and all the rest around Qalqilyah, Ramallah and Jenin. The army intends to hold a wide-spread operation to detain militants, after the group adopted a policy that shrugs off certain truce agreements.
In response to the string of deadly Palestinian attacks on Israelis, the Palestinian Interior Ministry on Monday warned Islamic Jihad and figures in the Fatah movement against a further escalation in violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
A statement said the ministry, which is responsible for the Palestinian security services, "will not allow any body to extort the Palestinian Authority and prevent the realization of the achievements of [Israel's] withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The ministry will act against all those who work to undermine the declared period of calm."
Two Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks in the past two days.
Islamic Jihad gunmen near the northern West Bank city of Tul Karm opened fire on a car carrying two Israeli civilians in an ambush early Monday, killing the driver, identified as Yevgeny Reider, 28, from Hermesh, and lightly wounding his 15-year-old passenger. The day before, an Israel Defense Forces soldier was killed by gunmen in the southern Gaza Strip.
Later on Monday, IDF soldiers arrested a female would-be suicide bomber at the entrance to the Erez crossing on the border with the northern Gaza Strip.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas are to hold a summit Tuesday, viewed as key to coordinating the planned disengagement.
Khadr Adnan, an Islamic Jihad spokesman in the West Bank, said Monday the ambush attack didn't signal the end of the group's cease-fire with Israel. "We are still committed to calm," he said.
U.S. to PA: Time to stop the terrorFollowing the succession of attacks by Palestinian militants on Israelis in the territories, the United States said on Monday that the PA must take immediate action against terrorist groups.
"We strongly condemn the terror actions of the last several days directed at taking the lives of Israelis and sabotaging efforts for peace," said spokesman for the State Department Sean McCormack. "Now is the time for the PA to act against terrorists."
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