IDF Preparing for Disturbances in West Bank, Gaza Following Friday Prayers

In an effort to minimize potential disturbances, the IDF arrested 55 Palestinians in the West Bank on Thursday.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

The Israel Defense Forces are preparing for possible disturbances in the West Bank and Gaza Strip this morning after worshipers emerge from prayer services at the mosques.

On Thursday, some 200 Palestinian demonstrators approached the border between Israel and Gaza near Khan Yunis and began shaking the border fence, causing minor damage. Three of them managed to get through the fence, but were caught by IDF troops within minutes. The demonstrators dispersed after soldiers fired in the air.

In an effort to minimize potential disturbances, the IDF arrested 55 Palestinians in the West Bank on Thursday.

The Shin Bet security service announced on Thursday that the perpetrators of Wednesday's bus bombing in Tel Aviv, which wounded 28 people, were arrested later that day. It said the security services had arrested several Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives, most of them from the West Bank town of Beit Lakiya, and they had confessed to preparing the bomb, choosing the target and buying the cellphone that detonated it from a distance.

To smuggle the bomb into Israel and actually plant it on the bus, the cell recruited an Israeli citizen, the Shin Bet said. That man, also originally from Beit Lakiya, was granted citizenship after marrying an Israeli and now lives in Taibeh.

Additional arrests in the case are expected in the coming days, the statement added.

Thousands of the 56,000 reservists called up during Operation Pillar of Defense were sent home on Thursday, and some voiced discontent at having been called up for a week and then sent home without actually doing any fighting. But not all the reservists were released: Many were ordered to stay on alert along the Gaza perimeter until it becomes clear whether the cease-fire is holding.

One question that hasn't yet been answered is how the army will conduct routine security activity along the Gaza border under the new rules set by the cease-fire. IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, in a briefing for foreign correspondents on Thursday, said it depends on how the terrorist organizations behave: If events on the ground warrant it, the IDF will be authorized to intensify its own activities, he said.

Gantz also listed what he viewed as the operation's achievements: killing Ahmed Jabari, the head of Hamas' military wing, and dealing an "almost mortal" blow to Hamas' strategic capabilities in Gaza by destroying most of its medium-range Fajr rockets and its drone manufacturing program.

A Palestinian protester tries to kick back a tear gas canister fired by Israeli soldiers during clashes in the West Bank city of Hebron November 20, 2012. Credit: Reuters

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