The IDF surrounded the northern West Bank town of Qabatiya Wednesday evening after three of its residents carried out a shooting and stabbing attack in Jerusalem earlier in the day that left one police officer dead and another seriously wounded.
Soldiers set up temporary checkpoints around the village and were closely inspecting those entering and leaving, an army spokesperson said.
According to reports, the army was also carrying out arrest raids in the village, apparently seeking suspected accomplices of the three terrorists.
The operation began as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summoned a meeting of security chiefs in Jerusalem following the attack. The meeting included Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, police commissioner Roni Alsheich, IDF chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot and a senior Shin Bet officer.
The officials decided to increase the number of troops deployed in the West Bank, further bolstering the army’s presence in the territory nearly five months into an ongoing terror wave.
Israeli security officials said Wednesday’s fatal attack at the Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem, in which Border Police officer Hadar Cohen, 19, was killed and a second policewoman badly injured, marked “an escalation”.
The three West Bank Palestinians who stabbed and shot at the Israeli forces had somehow made their way from Qabatiya to Jerusalem, and were armed with makeshift guns, knives and pipe bombs.
They had apparently been sitting and waiting for a large group of Israeli civilians to enter or leave the Old City, and had planned to target them, when police asked for their IDs and they attacked the officers..
The three were killed by police during the attack.
All three of the attackers were members of families associated with Fatah. They were identified by the Palestinian news agency Ma’an as Ahmad Rajeh Ismail Zakarneh, Muhammad Ahmad Hilmi Kamil and Najeh Ibrahim Abu al-Roub, all hailing from Qabatiya.
One of the three terrorists, Zakarneh, had vowed in a Facebook post to carry out a shooting attack, Channel 2 reported, saying he sought to avenge the killing of another Palestinian who attempted an attack at a border crossing in the northern West Bank last November.
“As far as we can tell from the armaments, [the terrorists] planned a larger, more sophisticated attack,” Jerusalem Deputy Police Chief Avshalom Peled said. “This is an escalation from what we’ve seen thus far. The police officers prevented a combined and much larger attack.”
Israeli forces have in recent days imposed closures on the main palestinian city of Ramallah and the West Bank village of Beit Ur al-Tahta in response to attacks.
Palestinians have decried the measures as collective punishment.