Amid a surge in terror attacks, Israel on Friday placed an effective closure on the West Bank city of Hebron and announced an immediate cut to tax funds it collects for the Palestinian Authority, saying it would deduct the amount the Palestinian leadership pays to the families of terrorists.
A meeting of the high-level security cabinet was set for Saturday night, when ministers could decide on further punitive steps.
The Israel Defense Forces said it had put in place an “effective closure” on Hebron and significantly increased the presence of soldiers in the area, an army spokesperson said.
Two additional battalions were brought into the Hebron area as the army sought to get a handle on the surge of violence in and emanating from the West Bank in recent days, IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said.
“The IDF is taking several steps to put forces on the ground to try to disrupt terrorist activities in the area surrounding Hebron,” Lerner said.
“The deployment of the battalions will be going into effect today,” he said by phone Friday.
Meanwhile the Prime Minister’s Office announced that as an immediate step, Israel would cut back on the transfer of tax money it collects for the PA, saying it would remove an amount equal to that paid in stipends to the families of terrorists — amounting to millions of shekels.
Israel transfers around $127 million in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports monthly.
“The PA transfers the funds to terrorists using various laundering techniques. The more severe the terror attacks, the more money is paid,” Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said. “Israeli believes the encouragement of terrorism by Palestinian leadership through incitement and payments to terrorists and their families serve as an incentive for murder.”
The security cabinet will meet on Saturday night to discuss the current situation and determine how the country’s security services should proceed.
The divided city of Hebron, as well as East Jerusalem, have emerged as focal points in the ongoing wave of terror that Israel has been experiencing since September.
“Seventy-nine terrorists have originated from Hebron,” Lerner noted.
In light of this increase in violence, after a relatively calm period, the army’s additional steps were “required,” Lerner said.
At this stage, however, the army was not considering a closure on the entire West Bank, Lerner said. “At least not to my knowledge,” he added.
In the rest of the West Bank, the army would operate as usual, but on “high alert,” the spokesperson said.
Lerner attributed the multiple terror attacks in the past two days, which have thus far left two Israelis dead and several injured, to two main causes: the end of the Ramadan holiday and the “success” of the previous attacks.
“As Ramadan comes to an end, we historically always see an uptick in the amount of terrorist activities,” Lerner said. “The sense of ‘success,’ as it’s perceived, in carrying out attacks leads one attack to follow another.”
On Friday afternoon, a terror cell carried out a shooting attack outside of the Otniel settlement near Hebron along the route 60 highway in the West Bank. The as yet unidentified perpetrators fled the scene, and the army launched a manhunt to locate the gunmen.
It was not immediately clear if the attack was carried out by members of a terror organization or by “lone wolves,” with no particular affiliation, Lerner said.
Miki Mark, a 48-year-old father of ten, was killed in the attack, while his wife was seriously injured with a head wound. Two of his children who were in the car were also hurt. Their 14-year-old daughter was in moderate-to-serious condition, and their 15-year-old son was lightly injured.
More than 20 bullets were fired at the two automobiles hit in the drive-by shooting, Lerner said.
The attack came a day after a 17-year-old Palestinian terrorist broke into the Kiryat Arba settlement outside of Hebron and stabbed to death a 13-year-old girl, Hallel Yaffa Ariel, as she slept in her bed.
Hours later, a Palestinian man from the city of Tulkarem in the West Bank stabbed and wounded an Israeli man and woman in the coastal city of Netanya.
And on Friday morning, a Palestinian woman was shot and killed as she attempted to stab a group of border guards in Hebron with a knife that she had hidden in her bag, according to police.