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Bennett says Israel facing ‘wave of Arab terror’ as security chiefs meet on crisis

Prime minister holds consultations with IDF chief, intelligence personnel after 11 Israelis killed in a week; security cabinet to convene Wednesday

Israeli police and rescue personnel at the scene of a deadly terrorist attack in Bnei Brak, on March 29, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Israeli police and rescue personnel at the scene of a deadly terrorist attack in Bnei Brak, on March 29, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Tuesday that Israel was facing a wave of terrorism, after the third deadly assault in an Israeli city in eight days.

A terrorist killed five Israelis in Bnei Brak on Tuesday, bringing the total number of fatalities in the three attacks to 11.

“Israel is facing a wave of murderous Arab terrorism,” Bennett said following Tuesday’s attack. “My heart is with the families who have lost their loved ones this evening. I am praying for the recovery of the wounded.”

“The security forces are at work. We will fight terrorism with persistence, diligence and an iron fist,” Bennett said. “They will not move us from here. We will prevail.”

In a later Hebrew video statement, Bennett said: “What we saw during Operation Guardian of the Walls… was a harbinger of things to come,” referencing the violence between Arabs and Jews in the so-called mixed cities during last May’s war against Hamas and other Gaza terror groups.

“The civilians and police officers who shot at the terrorists at the various attack scenes are the heroes of Israel,” he said.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett addresses citizens of Israel in a video message after the March 29, 2022 Bnei Brak terror attack. (Screen capture/GPO)

“After a period of silence, there is a violent outburst from those trying to destroy us, those who want to harm us at all costs, those who are moved by hatred of the Jews and of the State of Israel, those who are willing to die as long so that we cannot live in peace.”

“The secret of our existence is our kindness to one another and our determination to defend the home we built at all costs,” he concluded. “Citizens of Israel, this time too we will win.”

Bennett held a security consultation on Tuesday night with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar, Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, and other top officials, Bennett’s office said.

During the last so-called “terror wave,” in 2015 and 2016, Palestinians attacked Israelis almost daily, and often multiple times per day. Most of the attacks were stabbings carried out by individuals, mainly in and around Jerusalem.

In contrast, the last week has seen three attacks in Israeli cities far from the capital, making it the bloodiest week due to terror in years. The two previous attacks were carried out by Israeli Arab citizens with ties to the Islamic State terror group.

Four people were killed in a stabbing and ramming spree in Beersheba on March 22, and two officers were shot dead in Hadera on Sunday.

Gantz said on Tuesday that security forces will use “all means” to bring an end to the string of deadly attacks.

“We have been through difficult times as a people and as a country, amid waves of terror, and we have always won with determination and strength and so it will be this time as well,” Gantz said.

“The entire security establishment — the IDF, the Shin Bet and police — will work using all means to restore security to the streets of Israel and a sense of security to the citizens,” he said.

The IDF said it was bolstering troops in the West Bank and border areas with four additional battalions following the security meeting. Another four battalions were deployed to the region following a terror attack in Hadera on Sunday.

The security cabinet will convene on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the outbreak of violence.

Israeli police officers and medics are seen at the scene of a shooting attack in Bnei Brak, on March 29, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Police have confirmed the shooting was a terrorist attack. Barlev, whose office oversees the police, visited the scene of the shooting ahead of the meeting with Bennett.

Fears of violence were already climbing ahead of the start of the Ramadan holiday next month.

The Palestinian gunman was killed by a police officer who was also slain. The shooter was named as Diaa Hamarsheh, 26, from the northern West Bank village of Yabed. He previously served a prison sentence after a conviction on terror ties and illegal sale of weapons, according to preliminary reports.

Police were working to rule out the possibility that the shooter had any accomplices. Officers were scanning cars and entering some homes in Bnei Brak.

Eight illegal residents of the area were arrested. It was unclear whether any had a connection to the shooting.

Bnei Brak’s mayor ordered police to sweep and inspect construction sites in the city on Wednesday to search for more illegal residents. Many West Bank Palestinians illegally work in construction in Israel.

Schools in Bnei Brak were scheduled to operate as usual on Wednesday, but with an increased security presence.

Video said to be from the scene showed a man firing a rifle at a bicycle rider on a street, then killing a driver in a passing white SUV from close range.

Tensions soared in the area after the attack, with dozens of protesters shouting, “Death to Arabs,” and “revenge,” as medics and security forces did their work.

The spate of terror attacks this week marked the most terror fatalities in Israel since 2006, when a suicide bus bombing killed 11 in Tel Aviv. This week’s toll was higher than in the years 2020 and 2021 combined.

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