Israel is stepping up arrests of Hamas members and other anti-Israel activists in the West Bank in order to preempt a possible Palestinian uprising, AFP reported Thursday.
Quoting an unnamed security official, the French agency said Jerusalem was trying to prevent low-intensity flareups from turning into a mass uprising against Israel.
“There is a certain [Palestinian] awakening,” the official told AFP. “As a consequence a decision was taken within the security establishment to increase intelligence activity and arrests among members of Hamas or activists against Israel… It started in the past few days and will increase.”
Flames of unrest in the West Bank — possibly stoked by the Palestinians’ upgraded status at the United Nations, to that of a nonmember observer state, and Israel’s recent war against Hamas in Gaza — have surfaced over the past few weeks.
The Shin Bet security service contended in its November monthly report that the increase in violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank was tied to Pillar of Defense, that month’s eight-day Israel-Gaza conflict. The security agency counted 122 Palestinian attacks on Israelis in the West Bank, compared with 39 in October — and 44 incidents in Jerusalem, up from 31 the month before.
On Tuesday, a raid by IDF soldiers who disguised themselves as vegetable vendors to seize members of a terror group sparked intense clashes in the northern West Bank. Residents in the town of Tamoun said youths tossed stones and bottles at Israeli troops, while the soldiers responded with rubber bullets.
Military officials said Border Police forces entered the town and arrested Islamic Jihad activist Murad Beni Ouda, as well as another person.
In a separate incident last week, the IDF arrested a Palestinian policeman outside Hebron — finally catching a wanted man it had failed twice previously to arrest.
Firas Abu Aziza, 27, was detained at a checkpoint near Yatta, a village outside Hebron. It was not immediately clear why he had been sought.
Palestinian security officials, who did not want to identify themselves, said Aziza was taken into custody in an unmarked car. They called on the IDF to release him immediately.
Aziza had escaped the army’s first attempt to catch him. A second effort, in Hebron on December 6, ended in clashes with some 250 Palestinians during which an IDF soldier was punched in the face by a Palestinian policeman.
The first two intifadas (“uprisings”), which started in 1987 and 2000, were characterized by widespread violence, civil disobedience and terror attacks. The second intifada saw an onslaught of suicide bombings that declined as Israel constructed the West Bank security barrier.
Times of Israel staff and The Associated Press contributed to this report.