IDF Increases West Bank Presence Following Itamar Terror Attack

Soldiers deployed to intervene if violence escalates across West Bank, particularly in areas of tension between settlers and Palestinians.

The Israel Defense Forces launched an inquiry on Sunday and sent reinforcements into the West Bank two days after the massacre of five members of the same family in the settlement of Itamar.

The probe is being overseen by the Samaria District brigade commander, Col. Nimrod Aloni, and the IDF commander in the West Bank, Brig. Gen. Nitzan Alon. Officers serving in Central Command are also helping in the investigation. The conclusions will be submitted to Chief of Staff Benny Gantz.

Military sources confirmed on Sunday that the authorities mishandled the initial signal triggered by the electronic security fence ringing the settlement. Two Palestinian terrorists climbed over the fence and killed Udi and Ruth Fogel and three of their children in their home.

While Itamar is protected by a civilian security firm, the Givati infantry company responsible for the area oversees a much wider strip of territory that stretches across the northern West Bank. Another issue to be investigated is the extent to which the Givati Brigade supervises the settlement's security procedures.

A preliminary probe into the killings found that a civilian security guard who rushed to the fence from where the signal came believed that the alarm had been triggered by an animal.

The IDF may enforce more stringent rules, such as notifying a senior officer whenever a fence alarm is sounded. That officer, perhaps a company commander in charge of the area, will have sole authorization to determine whether a false alarm occurred.

Security personnel in settlements across Samaria have complained that the fences that were put up around the communities trigger many false alarms.

Over the last two days, Central Command has received reinforcements assigned to help out if violence escalates across the West Bank, particularly in areas of tension between settlers and Palestinians. Possible flash points are the settlements near Nablus, the outposts in the Shiloh Valley just north of Ramallah, and the Hebron region.

Soldiers from the Nahal Brigade's training base, the radar instructional school, the Engineering Corps academy, and a company of Border Policemen have been rerouted to the West Bank. The number of reinforcements is equivalent to two battalions.

Still, this realignment is relatively small compared with the scope of forces that were deployed on the ground after similar terrorist attacks during the height of the second intifada.

The IDF and the Shin Bet security service continue to make wholesale arrests in an effort to track down the killers. So far, more than 20 Palestinians from villages near Itamar have been detained.

Army sources say the authorities will be able to find those responsible for the attack relatively soon. The Palestinian Authority is playing only a minor role in the manhunt.

Emil Salman