JERUSALEM – Israeli security forces said they had killed three Palestinian gunmen in the occupied West Bank early Saturday morning, as they continued to scale up operations in response to a wave of terrorist attacks in the occupied West Bank. Israel.
Israeli police said in a statement that the militants were stopped while driving through the northern West Bank, after authorities received a tip that they were about to carry out an attack. Three men were killed in a shootout that later also wounded four Israeli soldiers, police said.
This episode brings the number of Palestinians killed in Israeli military operations in the West Bank this week to at least six. Three others were killed Thursday morning in an Israeli raid in Jenin, a city in the northern West Bank, Palestinian health officials said.
Israeli security forces have increased their presence throughout Israel and the occupied territories since a Palestinian gunman killed five people in Bnei Brak, a city in central Israel, on Tuesday. It was the latest in a string of terror attacks in Israel that have killed 11 people since March 22.
The military has sent several more battalions to the West Bank, dispatching reserves and reinforcements along the border between Israel and Gaza. Police say they are almost exclusively focusing on counter-terrorism operations while increasing their presence on the streets.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also called on Israeli civilians with guns to be allowed to carry guns in public.
These measures reflect heightened feelings of anxiety in Israel following three brazen and unusually deadly attacks in three Israeli cities rarely at the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Last week, before the attack in Bnei Brak, an Arab citizen of Israel stabbed three people and stabbed another with his car, kill all four, in Beersheba, a quiet city in southern Israel. A few days later, two other Arab citizens of Israel shoot two policemen in Hadera, a city on the Mediterranean coast. It is unusual that the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for that attack.
Officials and analysts fear that violence could escalate in the coming weeks, when the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins on Saturday, will coincide with Passover and Easter for the first time ever after. years.
The festivities are expected to increase tensions in Jerusalem’s Old City, which has access to and control of a holy site sacred to both Jews and Muslims – known to Jews as the Temple Mount and for Muslims is the Noble Sanctuary – was has long been at the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Hamas, the Islamist militant group that is rocking the Gaza Strip, warned in a statement Friday evening that Israel would face “consequences” if it allowed the Israeli military or Jewish devout Enter the Aqsa mosque compound at the top of the Temple Mount. It did not specify what those consequences would be.
Tensions about mosques – along with Israel tries to expel Palestinians from a strategic area of the city – promoted Hamas fired multiple rockets towards Jerusalem from Gaza in May, departing an 11 day war. However, Israeli officials believe that Hamas is most likely wary of directly organizing attacks from Gaza, because the group does not want to risk another full-scale escalation in Gaza in the immediate aftermath of the war. .
In a sign of de-escalation, Palestinian political groups in Gaza on Wednesday decided to oppose the celebration of Land Day, an important anniversary in the Palestinian calendar, with a protest near the border. between Gaza and Israel. Instead, they concentrated on the coast, reducing the risk of confrontation with Israeli border guards.
Friday evening and Saturday morning prayers at Al Aqsa Mosque also passed without incident.
Iyad Abuheweila contributed reporting from Gaza City.