The army beefed up its forces in the Hebron area on Friday in response to two shooting attacks that wounded three Israelis. A paratroops battalion joined the six battalions already stationed in the area in an effort to hunt down the terrorist cells that perpetrated the shootings, with the goal of catching them before they can carry out any additional attacks.
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Sources in the Israel Defense Forces said the attacks were apparently carried out by two different cells, both acting independently.
The troops also conducted searches for weapons in both Hebron and nearby Beit Anoun.
Saturday night, the army confirmed that Israeli security forces had caught the perpetrator of one of the two attacks — the shooting near Beit Anoun, north of Hebron, that seriously wounded a soldier.
According to the Shin Bet security service, the assailant was a 16-year-old from Bani Na’im who used a hunting rifle taken from his house to carry out the attack. The agency said he confessed to the attack and turned in the rifle.
A spokesman for the Border Police said that Friday at around 8 P.M. a Border Police squad was searching the area when together with an officer from the IDF regional battalion identified the Palestinian suspect in an open field. The Border Police personnel initiated the arrest procedure and the man gave himself up and was handed over to the security service for questioning. In further searches, the spokesman said, the weapon was found that the 16-year-old is suspected of using in the attack.
On Friday night, the IDF took over the houses of two Palestinian families in Hebron’s Tel Rumeida neighborhood. The army said it did so for unspecified operational purposes, in light of the shooting that wounded two Israeli civilians at the nearby Tomb of the Patriarchs.
In one house, the IDF found several Italian and German nationals, including one journalist. An IDF source said residents of the house are being allowed to enter and leave freely, but the army has taken over several rooms for its own use.
Over the course of Friday night, the IDF arrested several suspects in the Hebron area. But so far, the source said, no evidence has been found connecting these suspects to the shootings.
IDF statistics show that over the past month, the army has carried out more arrests than it did during the search for three kidnapped Israeli teens in June 2014.
The wave of terror attacks of the past several weeks has included several attacks in the vicinity of Hebron, which various Palestinian groups recently dubbed “the capital of Palestinian anger.” The two most recent attacks occurred on Friday.
In response to the Friday night Beit Anoun shooting that seriously wounded a soldier, the IDF imposed a closure on the village.
About two hours earlier, two Israelis were wounded in a shooting attack near the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron. A 16-year-old boy suffered moderate wounds and an 18-year-old was lightly wounded.
Because of the series of attacks in Hebron, the IDF decided last week to bar Palestinian men aged 15 to 25 from crossing the checkpoints that separate the city’s Jewish compounds from its Palestinian areas, unless they live or attend school in the Jewish neighborhoods — and in that case, they must enter via one specific checkpoint, known as the Pharmacy checkpoint. Prior to last week, anyone could enter the Jewish areas as long as they underwent a security check.
In addition, the army ordered all Palestinian stores in these areas closed until further notice.