Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Israel’s security services for the Saturday raid in Jenin that resulted the death of Hamas operative Hamza Abu al-Hija.
“Our policy is to do harm to those who harm or plan to harm us,” Netanyahu said in his opening remarks before the Sunday cabinet meeting.
“Over the weekend, our forces struck at a terrorist who arranged attacks on Israelis and planned attacks on innocent citizens,” he added. “I want to praise the elite police units, the IDF, including the Haredi Nahal, and the Shin Bet for this important action to remove a man who endangered Israel’s citizens.”
Abu al-Hija, 22, was killed in a firefight with IDF and police units early Saturday in the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank. At least two other Palestinians were killed and seven were wounded in subsequent clashes with Israeli forces Saturday in the area.
The other two Palestinian killed in the shootout were identified as Islamic Jihad operative Mahmud Abu Zeina, 25, and Yazen Jabarin, 22, a member of Fatah’s al-Aqsa Brigades. Palestinian media only identified three people killed in the shootout, but the IDF reported that a fourth Palestinian was slain. Two members of the Israel Police’s elite counterterrorism unit sustained light injuries and received treatment on site.
The Israeli troops surrounded the house in which Abu al-Hija had barricaded himself, and he was shot dead when he attempted to escape. According to IDF Spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, Abu al-Hija opened fire on the troops before he was killed. The IDF said he was “wanted for numerous shooting and bombing attacks as well as planning future acts of terrorism.” Lerner called him a “ticking time bomb” planning to kill Israelis.
Over 10,000 Palestinians, including dozens of armed gunmen, took part Saturday afternoon in the funerals of the three Palestinians.
The crowd called for Palestinian unity and vengeance, as well as an end to US-brokered Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.
Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon praised the operation, saying it was “an important preventative [operation] which foiled a planned terrorist attack that was meant to be carried out against Israeli targets, and thus saved lives.”
In a rare joint statement, the three main Palestinian militant groups — Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah’s military wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades – warned of retribution against Israel and against the Palestinian Authority leadership for allegedly cooperating with Israel.
“The resistance in the West Bank is alive and won’t die, and the Zionist enemy can’t guess from where the resistance will attack. The blood of Jenin Martyrs won’t go in vain,” the groups said.
The Palestinian Authority bears “equal responsibility” along with Israel for the violence in Jenin, they said, adding that “our people won’t forgive the Palestinian security apparatuses for this crime.”
PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s office condemned the IDF operation, calling it “part of an Israeli policy that aims to destroy everything,” and asked the American administration to intervene to save the peace talks. Abbas said the Israeli action was “despicable” and “intolerable.”
At Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Netanyahu also commented on the discovery over the weekend of a Hamas tunnel leading out of Gaza.
“At the same time, we found a tunnel, one of the assault tunnels, also belonging to Hamas, and these things clarify the importance of strict security arrangements in any future agreement, and even without an agreement,” he said. “These things are our guiding light.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.