Bennett vows ‘no safe harbor for terrorists’ following West Bank raid

Thousands turn out for Nablus funeral of three suspected terrorists, vowing to avenge their deaths; Joint List MK calls operation an ‘extrajudicial execution’

Palestinians inspect a bullet-riddled car belonging to three Palestinian terror suspects killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank city of Nablus, February 8, 2022. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)
Palestinians inspect a bullet-riddled car belonging to three Palestinian terror suspects killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank city of Nablus, February 8, 2022. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)

Israeli leaders on Tuesday hailed security forces after a rare daytime operation in the West Bank during which three Palestinian terror suspects were killed.

“Our forces proved today, again, that there is no immunity for terrorists,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement. “Whoever hurts us will be hurt.”

The three gunman were allegedly behind recent shooting attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians. They were apparently members of Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, a coalition of armed groups associated with the Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah party.

According to police, the suspects were shot dead while readying to shoot at officers from the Yamam police counterterrorism unit who ambushed them in Nablus. Police said officers recovered two M-16 rifles.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz also praised the operation, which he called “a preventive action.”

“I recently ordered that preventive actions against shooting attacks and troop presence in central arteries and areas of the [West Bank] be stepped up,” he wrote on Twitter. “We’ll continue with proactive operations, prevent [attacks] and capture anyone who tries to hurt people.”

M16 rifles seized during a Nablus terror operation on February 8, 2022. (Police spokesperson)

Border Police chief Amir Cohen spoke with the head of the Yamam, lauding the troops who took part in the raid.

“You again proved that Israeli citizens have someone to rely on. You acted courageously and caused the thwarting of a dangerous terror cell that intended to continue carrying out terror activities,” Cohen was quoted as saying in a police statement.

The gunmen were identified as Ashraf al-Mubsalit, Adham Mabrouk and Muhammad al-Dakhil by Palestinian media, which said they were affiliated with the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. A Fatah spokesperson confirmed that the three were Fatah members.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, a loose coalition of armed groups affiliated with Fatah, has been largely dormant since the Second Intifada two decades ago. In a 2007 agreement, hundreds of the terror group’s members surrendered their arms in exchange for amnesty from Israel.

Thousands of Palestinians participated in the funeral of the three men in Nablus on Tuesday afternoon.

“With blood and spirit, we’ll redeem you, o martyr!” the mourners chanted. Yellow flags affiliated with the West Bank’s ruling Fatah party dotted the procession alongside green banners associated with the Hamas terror group.

“Brigades! Qassam! Revenge! Revenge!” Palestinians could be heard chanting in another clip circulated on social media, referring to the armed wings of Islamic Jihad and Hamas, respectively.

The Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry condemned the shooting death of the Palestinian terror suspects at the hands of Israeli forces “in the most severe terms,” saying they were “executed.”

“This crime is the latest in a chain of extrajudicial executions committed by the forces of the occupation,” the Foreign Ministry said.

Illustrative: Palestinian gunmen from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades in the northern West Bank city of Nablus June 7, 2020. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

The Palestinian Authority cabinet called for an international investigation.

“The cabinet calls upon the United Nations and international human rights groups to condemn this heinous crime and work to bring the perpetrators to justice,” the ministers said in a statement.

Separately, Nablus Governor Ibrahim Ramadaed called for a general strike Wednesday across the governorate to mourn the three Palestinians.

Joint List MK Sami Abu Shehada also spoke out against the killing of the terror suspects, calling it an “extrajudicial execution against three Palestinian youths.”

“This is a serious crime that adds to the daily crimes of the Israeli occupation,” he said.

He also lashed out at Israeli society for supporting the “occupation’s crimes,” and the press for “accepting the army’s narrative and constantly echoing it through all media.”

Palestinians carry the body of a man, one of three killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank city of Nablus, on February 8, 2022. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

Following the raid, reports said Israeli troops were searching for an additional member of the suspected terror cell. It was not clear if the fourth person fled or was not present when soldiers killed the other three suspects.

According to an unsourced report in the Walla news site, officials decided to order the operation after the Palestinians were seen getting in a car with guns and ammunition.

The report said undercover anti-terror police riding in a taxi and a car in Nablus surrounded the suspects’ car and opened fire on it. Other troops, some of whom were undercover, were also deployed to the area in case of problems.

The Ynet news site reported that Israel received intelligence that the group had been planning an attack Tuesday night. The media outlet, which did not cite a source, also said that before being killed, the cell “acted like wanted suspects, moving between safehouses.”

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