After Three Israelis Killed, IDF Steps Up West Bank Presence Amid Fears of Copycat Attacks in Coming Days

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Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and IDF chief Gadi Eizenkot at the site of the attack in Halamish, July 22, 2017.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and IDF chief Gadi Eizenkot at the site of the attack in Halamish, July 22, 2017.Credit: Ariel Hermoni / Defense Ministry

Israeli defense officials fear that additional terrorists will attempt copycat attacks in the coming days based of Friday night's attack that left three dead in the West Bank settlement of Halamish.

As a result, Israel is increasing alertness in all areas of the West Bank and placing thousands of additional troops in the area. An IDF official told Haaretz on Saturday that is on high alert in wake of the recent events in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Israeli military forces imposed a closure on the Palestinian West Bank village of Khobar on Saturday and arrested the brother of the Palestinian who murdered three Israelis in the West Bank settlement of Halamish. A 60-year-old man and his son and daughter, both in their 40s, were stabbed to death, and a woman in her 60s was wounded in moderate-to-serious condition.

According to the army's orders, entry and exit from the village is prohibited, barring humanitarian cases. Israeli forces also took initial steps in preparing the assailant's house for demolition. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot visited the scene of the attack early Saturday, where they were briefed.

According to a Defense Ministry statement, Lieberman ordered to expedite the demolition of the homes of the assailants who carried out Friday's attack and the Temple Mount attack a week ago.

Israeli forces in the West Bank settlement of Halamish following Friday's attack, July 21, 2017.Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit

Lieberman has demanded that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and UN Secretary-General António Guterres "condemn the massacre that was carried out yesterday against an innocent family that didn't endanger anyone," the statment said. 

Farhan Haq, Guterres' deputy spokesman, issued a statement on Friday on behalf of the secretary general saying that the UN chief "strongly condemns" the "stabbing attack by a Palestinian perpetrator, which resulted in the death of three members of an Israeli family in the Halamish settlement in the occupied West Bank."

The spokesman said Guterres "conveys his condolences to the bereaved and wishes a speedy recovery to those injured," adding that the secretary general also cautioned against "any actions or words that could further escalate an already volatile situation."

After an initial investigation, Israeli security forces said the assailant, 18-year-old Omar al-Abed, identifies with Hamas, but is not considered an active member in the organization. Security forces believe al-Abed acted alone and bought the knife used in the attack in recent days as tensions surrounding the Temple Mount continued to grow.

The investigation also revealed that al-Abed jumped over the settlement fence Friday night and entered the family's house during Shabbat dinner. One of the women present managed to hide the children present in a side room and call for help from there. 90 minutes before the attack, al-Abed posted on Facebook that he wanted to "die for Al-Aqsa" after seeing how the flashpoint Jerusalem holy site was being "violated and desecrated."

Meanwhile, Israeli forces arrested four Palestinian youths in Jerusalem's Old City overnight on suspicion that they participated in clashes with police on Friday in East Jerusalem. The attack occurred after a day of clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians around the Temple Mount. Three Palestinian youths were killed, two in East Jerusalem and one in the nearby town of Abu Dis.

Hamas praised the attack, with spokesperson Hussam Badran calling to "continue the intifada against the occupation at all friction points in support of the Al-Aqsa mosque." He added that the number of Palestinians who turned out to demonstrate proves that the Palestinian people are aware of the dangers surrounding Al-Aqsa, and that the Palestinian people must obtain their rights through force.

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