Army said mulling moving security fence to split car-ramming suspect’s hometown

New barrier would cut Barta’a, which straddles Green Line, in half for first time in 50 years, make it harder for its residents to enter Israel

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter

The town of Barta'a. (David Lisbona, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)
The town of Barta'a. (David Lisbona, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons) common

The army is likely to recommend moving the West Bank security fence to re-divide the northern West Bank village of Barta’a  — the hometown of the terrorist suspected of killing two soldiers and wounding two others in Friday’s West Bank car-ramming attack, according to a report Sunday.

On Friday, Ala Qabha, 26, drove his vehicle into a group of soldiers standing guard near the settlement of Mevo Dotan — a short drive from Barta’a, which straddles the Green Line separating Israel proper from the West Bank.

Cpt. Ziv Daos, 21, and Sgt. Netanel Kahalani, 20, were killed in the attack and two others were injured.

The Green Line — the border determined by the 1949 Armistice Agreement — left half of Barta’a in Israel and the other half in Jordan, which, after the 1967 Six Day War, became the West Bank. The Qabha clan, which had been divided since 1949, was effectively reunited at that point and today, many of the town’s couples comprise one spouse from the eastern half and one from the western one.

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When, following the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000, discussions were held in Israel on erecting a security barrier to protect Israeli citizens from Palestinian violence, there was much discussion about Barta’a. It was eventually decided to locate the fence east of the town, which meant cutting off Palestinian Barta’a from the West Bank and bringing it into the Israeli side.

Since then, Barta’a’s Palestinians have had easy access to Israeli cities and the town has become an important commercial center, popular with Israelis looking for cheap deals.

Sgt. Netanel Kahalani, left, and Cpt. Ziv Daos, right, are identified as the soldiers killed in an apparent car-ramming terror attack on March 16, 2018. (Courtesy)

According to the Haaretz daily, the army has for some time wanted to reroute the security fence to divide the town again and make it harder for the Palestinians from east Barta’a to come into Israel. It will try to take advantage of the government’s belligerent mood following Friday’s attack to move its plans for the change forward, the paper said.

The scene of a suspected car-ramming terror attack in which two Israelis were killed and three wounded outside the northern West Bank settlement of Mevo Dotan, near Jenin, on March 16, 2018. (Magen David Adom)

The attack actually took place east of the separation barrier in the West Bank proper.

Security forces continued to comb Barta’a for weapons during Saturday night-early Sunday morning, locating weapons parts and an air gun, according to the army.

On Saturday, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot confirmed that Israeli forces arrested Qabha’s brother and an uncle in Barta’a, outside Jenin. Both relatives were suspected of helping him carry out the deadly attack.

Haaretz said security forces are also taking broader action against Qabha clan members by revoking their permits to trade with and work in Israel.

March 16, 2018, car-ramming suspect Ala Qabha (Courtesy)

Initial investigations indicate that Ala Qabha does not belong to any known Palestinian organization and did not leave any indications on social media or elsewhere of a plan to commit a terror attack, Haaretz said.

Elsewhere in the West Bank, security forces found thousands of shekels worth of what the army called money earmarked for terrorism in the village of Beit Sahour, east of Bethlehem. Across the West Bank, they arrested eight Palestinians suspected of involvement in violent disturbances and terror activities.

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