'We certainly assume there will be many more attempts'

Bennett says troops foiled ‘ticking time bomb’ in raid on Islamic Jihad cell

During meeting with top security officials, premier warns Israel may face ‘many more’ terror attacks, after 3 gunmen killed while allegedly en route to Israel

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

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in a meeting with Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar (R), his military secretary Avi Gil and other security officials, on April 2, 2022. (Shin Bet)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in a meeting with Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar (R), his military secretary Avi Gil and other security officials, on April 2, 2022. (Shin Bet)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Saturday warned the country may face “many more” attempted terror attacks in the near future, after troops killed three Palestinian gunmen allegedly en route to committing an attack in Israel.

“We are in the midst of a joint effort of all the security forces to stop the wave of recent attacks and restore security to Israeli citizens,” Bennett said in a video statement alongside Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar and his military secretary Avi Gil, ahead of a meeting with top officials at the security agency’s headquarters.

Referring to the overnight raid in which three Islamic Jihad operatives were killed, Bennett said security forces “thwarted a ticking time bomb.” Officials said the cell planned to cross into Israel from the West Bank and carry out a shooting attack.

“We certainly assume there will be many more attempts and we are working right now to prevent them,” Bennett said. “Our people act with great bravery, around the clock, in a hostile and violent environment, and I want to send a speedy recovery to the wounded in the operation.”

Speaking about an elite officer seriously hurt in the operation, Bennett said “he is one of the State of Israel’s best field commanders.” Chief Superintendent S. reportedly played a key role in several deadly counter-terror operations and arrests of “prominent terrorists” in the last 20 years.

A series of deadly terror attacks killed 11 people in Israel in a week, including a shooting that killed five people on Tuesday, putting Israeli security forces on heightened alert. The escalation has come as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began — often a period of high tension in Israel and the West Bank.

IDF soldiers are seen operating in the West Bank, in an image published by the military on April 2, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Bennett noted increased deployments of security forces in Israeli cities, saying the goal was to allow citizens to go about their normal lives.

“Terror is not new. Once it’s Hamas, once it’s Islamic Jihad, this time there is some involvement of Daesh,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State. Two of the recent attacks involved Arab Israelis with Islamic State links. “We will get through this difficult period,” he said.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Benny Gantz Gantz held a security assessment Saturday with Bar, military chief Aviv Kohavi, and other top security officials after the overnight gunfight near Jenin.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz tours a lookout point in the West Bank, on April 1, 2022. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Gantz praised the soldiers involved in the raid, including those hurt.

“We are continuing to work around the clock… to protect Israeli citizens,” he said.

Israeli officials have sought to head off tensions ahead of Ramadan amid fears that the violence could snowball into the same type of unrest that rocked Israel in May 2021, when Hamas began shooting rockets into Israel, sparking an 11-day war with Gaza and days of rioting between Arabs and Jews inside Israel.

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