Israel Fears Deadly West Bank Clashes Could Inspire More Attacks by Palestinians

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An Israeli soldier stands guard following a reported stabbing attack at the junction of Gush Etzion, near Bethlehem in the West Bank, on Monday.
An Israeli soldier stands guard following a reported stabbing attack at the junction of Gush Etzion, near Bethlehem in the West Bank, on Monday.Credit: Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP

Israeli defense officials fear a potential surge in violence, after three Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in unrelated incidents over 24 hours on Thursday.

Defense officials said they believe the weakened standing of the Palestinian Authority over the past two years has made it difficult for its security services to act in the most sensitive areas of the West Bank, mainly in the Jenin and Hebron region.

Due to a prolonged absence of PA security forces in the Jenin area, mainly in Burkin, as well as in Qabatiya and rural areas near Hebron, armed groups have formed to fill the security vacuum. PA officials acknowledge that they will have difficulty gaining public support to act against these groups.

The Hamas cell exposed by an IDF operation earlier this week in Jenin and the Ramallah area is part of a larger infrastructure the organization has set up in the northern West Bank. The Shin Bet security service and IDF are continuing to act to thwart it in operations, including one on Thursday morning, when they rounded up suspects in Burkin. Troops and a Border Police counter-terrorist unit conducting the raid were met by fire and killed one terrorist in response.

Meanwhile, a Palestinian Islamic Jihad member was killed by Israeli troops during clashes in the village of Burkin near Jenin overnight Wednesday.

Palestinian reports said that 22-year-old Alaa Nasser Zayud was killed by special forces conducting raids in the village. 

Palestinian sources said soldiers and members of the police’s anti-terror unit surrounded houses in the village and arrested two people before dawn on Thursday. Clashes then broke out and several armed Palestinians began shooting at the troops, witnesses said, adding that Zayud fired at the Israelis as they were leaving the village. Two Palestinians were wounded by live fire, sources said. 

Palestinians clash with the IDF in the West BankCredit: Mohamad Torokman/ Reuters

Later on Thursday, the Israeli military shot dead a Palestinian who was hunting birds in the central Gaza Strip on Thursday, according to Palestinian media. The man was identified as 41-year-old Muhammed Ammar.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said that forces identified “three suspects who were approaching the fence” in northern Gaza. The troops fired toward one of them after he was seen “digging in the ground while carrying a suspicious bag.” The army added that it is investigating the incident. 

Also on Thursday, a 30-year-old woman was shot dead by Border Police after a stabbing attempt in Jerusalem’s Old City. The woman was shot after she tried to stab officers, police said. The Palestinian media identified the woman as 30-year-old Asra Hazimiya.

According to police, Hazimiya, a resident of Qabatiya, south of Jenin, was behaving suspiciously and was asked to identify herself near Jerusalem’s Chain Gate. During the inspection, she pulled out the knife and they shot her on the spot, according to police. No Israeli casualties were reported, and medical staff declared Hazimiya dead at the scene.

The attempted stabbing attack in Jerusalem is an indication of the possible repercussions of events in the northern West Bank, according to one security source. He expressed concern over the risk of rising tensions and more lone wolf attacks.

The IDF’s Central Command is making efforts to restore calm. On Thursday, its commander Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs and other senior officers visited the Khirbat al-Mufkara village in south Mount Hebron, whose residents had been attacked by masked Jewish settlers over the Sukkot holidays.

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