Amid rising West Bank violence, Lapid orders forces to remain on high alert

Prime minister briefed by Shin Bet on recent incidents, army operations; IDF arrests Birzeit students for allegedly laundering money for Hamas

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Israeli soldiers operate in the West Bank, September 19, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
Israeli soldiers operate in the West Bank, September 19, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Thursday ordered Israeli security forces to remain in an enhanced state of readiness, given an uptick in violence in the West Bank.

Lapid met with Shin Bet security agency chief Ronen Bar in Tel Aviv, and received an intelligence and operational briefing on recent events in the West Bank, including army operations, a statement from his office said.

“The prime minister emphasized that the policy is to constantly act to defuse terror in all areas, especially the Gaza, Judea, and Samaria fronts,” the statement said, referring to the West Bank by its biblical name.

“This is a necessary requisite for being able to keep normal routines and strengthening security for residents,” Lapid added.

The Israel Defense Forces and police have been on heightened alert since last week, and the start of the Jewish holiday season, with tensions already high due to an Israeli anti-terror offensive that has seen over 100 Palestinians killed and more than 2,000 arrested in nightly raids in the West Bank.

Israel says nearly all of those killed were either wanted terrorists or actively engaged in fighting Israeli forces.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid (R) and Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar tour the security service’s headquarters for the northern West Bank, September 15, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)

The IDF on Thursday said that those recently arrested in raids included a number of students at the Birzeit University near Ramallah, charged with allegedly funneling funds for the Hamas terror group.

Avichay Adraee, the IDF’s Arabic-language spokesman, wrote on Twitter that the students were arrested in possession of credit cards they used to finance Hamas activities in the West Bank.

The funds allegedly came from Hamas in Gaza, as well as operatives based in Turkey, Adraee said.

Adraee said the money would be brought into the West Bank by couriers under the guise of humanitarian aid or for work purposes, and then the suspects would withdraw it from ATMs in Ramallah.

Israel often arrests Palestinian university students in the West Bank for affiliation with Hamas or other terror groups.

Palestinian students supporting the Hamas terror group wave flags as they attend a debate ahead of student council elections at Birzeit University on the outskirts of Ramallah in the West Bank, on May 17, 2022. (ABBAS MOMANI / AFP)

The Shin Bet recently warned that the Gaza-based terrorist group was increasingly trying to carry out attacks in the West Bank and Israel.

Last week, two gunmen were arrested by the IDF after shooting at Israeli cars in the West Bank, under orders by Hamas in Gaza, according to the security agency.

Meanwhile, Israel on Thursday unfroze entry permits to Israel for residents of Kafr Dan, the hometown of two Palestinian gunmen who killed an officer earlier this month on the West Bank security barrier.

In a statement, the military’s liaison to the Palestinians said the decision, which came two weeks after the deadly shooting, was made by Defense Minister Benny Gantz during a recent assessment.

IDF officers inspect the scene of a gunfight in which two Palestinians were killed after opening fire and killing an IDF officer on September 14, 2022, near the West Bank security fence. (Israel Defense Forces)

Ahmed Abed and Abdul Rahman Abed, from the village near Jenin, were killed in the gun battle with Israeli troops who sought to arrest them on September 14.

Maj. Bar Falah, 30, the deputy commander of the elite Nahal reconnaissance unit, was killed when the gunmen opened fire.

Dozens of work permits belonging to the immediate family members of the two gunmen are still frozen, COGAT said.

In the past year, more than 2,500 work permits belonging to family members of Palestinian terrorists have been revoked, the statement added.

Israeli soldiers arrest a suspect in the West Bank, September 21, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Palestinian gunmen in recent months have targeted military posts, troops operating along the West Bank security barrier, Israeli settlements, and civilians on the roads. Israeli troops have also repeatedly come under gunfire during nightly raids in Palestinian cities in the West Bank.

The military launched the arrest operations after a series of deadly attacks that killed 19 people between mid-March and the beginning of May. Another Israeli civilian was killed in a suspected terror attack earlier this month in Holon.

Many of the IDF’s arrests in recent months have concentrated on Nablus and Jenin, in the northern West Bank, home to a number of the terrorists who committed the attacks earlier this year.

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