IDF Arrests Suspect in West Bank Shooting, Warns Hamas Planning More Attacks

Car traveling near Bethlehem hit in back by gunfire, none hurt; IDF says Hamas weakened in West Bank but intent on carrying out more shootings.

Israeli security forces have arrested a Palestinian militant apparently linked to Hamas suspected of carrying out a shooting attack on an Israeli car near the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Saturday night.

The Israel Defense Forces' Central Command believes that the incident, which occurred in an area relatively free of security violations, shows that Hamas has plans to carry out future attacks in the West Bank.

Hamas police, AP, 2007

Security forces began combing the area immediately after the incident. The car in question had been driving in the area south of Jerusalem when its back end was hit by gunfire. None of the passengers of the car were hurt.

The security forces found a backpack containing a Kalishnakov rifle and on Sunday reported that an arrest had been made.

Four Israeli civilians were killed about two months ago in a shooting attack in the West Bank. Both that attack and two more shootings that occurred within days after and wounded several Israelis were carried out by Hamas.

About three weeks ago, Israeli security forces killed a number of militants from the Hamas cell behind those attacks and arrested several others.

The IDF believes that the majority of Hamas' activities in the West Bank are being orchestrated by Palestinian militants formerly imprisoned in Israel, who returned to terrorism after being released over the last few years.

These cells are linked to Hamas commanders in both Damascus and in the Gaza Strip. Due to the successes of the IDF and the Shin Bet in cracking down on the Hamas infrastructure in the West Bank in recent years, the commanders have had a harder time keep in contact with these cells and many of the orders have been passed on through family members in a less organized fashion than before.

These cells have also had a harder time harboring weapons and ammunition, due to mass raids by the IDF and Palestinian Authority security forces.

But the Central Command believes that the Hamas cells are still intent on carrying out shooting attacks, and the IDF, Shin Bet and PA forces have intensified their crackdowns.