Senior cop says police looking at 41 potential terror alerts

Defense minister: Every terrorist will either go to court or the cemetery

IDF to deploy 2 companies to help cops in capital, West Bank barrier area; Shin Bet chief said to warn against sealing off E. Jerusalem neighborhoods, as Smotrich, Ben Gvir sought

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

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks to reporters after an assessment at the IDF's West Bank headquarters, January 29, 2023. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks to reporters after an assessment at the IDF's West Bank headquarters, January 29, 2023. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)

BEIT EL, West Bank — Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Sunday that Israel was seeking calm, but would not hesitate to act against terror, as tensions remained high following a series of Palestinian attacks.

Speaking after an assessment at the military’s West Bank headquarters, Gallant said Israel “will act decisively and forcefully against anyone who threatens our citizens… Every terrorist will either go to court or the cemetery.

“We will enact offensive and proactive actions against those who try to harm our children. Anyone who helps the terrorists will be harmed. If needed, we will demolish their homes. We will deprive them of their rights. If needed, we will expel them,” Gallant said at the army base on the outskirts of the settlement of Beit El, which overlooks the West Bank city of Ramallah.

“We will not allow our blood to be spilled. We will do what is necessary to bring them to justice,” he continued.

“At the same time, we want to calm the area down. This means that anyone who behaves well will be able to work and make a living. We want a better future for the Palestinian population, for anyone who behaves according to the law,” he added.

Military chief Herzi Halevi held a separate assessment at the West Bank headquarters.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant points at a Palestinian village outside the IDF’s West Bank headquarters, January 29, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

The Israel Defense Forces said the assessment focused on “lessons learned from  recent events… and the readiness of the forces in the field to face the various scenarios.”

In addition to three additional battalions deployed to the West Bank since Friday, the IDF said Sunday it would be deploying two infantry companies to assist police in the Jerusalem area and in Israeli towns near the West Bank security barrier.

The companies were of the Givati and Golani brigades, which are currently in basic training.

An Israeli policeman secures a shooting attack site near Jerusalem’s Old City, on January 28, 2023.(AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement Sunday his government would seek to enact fresh measures against terrorists’ families, including revoking their residency or citizenship and deporting them to territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

A statement from Netanyahu’s office said the premier demanded that legislation on the matter be prepared, as well as a bill to allow employers to fire workers who express support for terror without the usual required hearing.

The Prime Minister’s Office said the government backs expediting any bill that “strengthens deterrence by exacting a price from those in terrorists’ immediate proximity.”

Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar reportedly warned ministers during a Saturday night cabinet meeting that any move to seal off parts of East Jerusalem as a response to recent terror attacks could lead to a much broader conflagration.

According to the Kan public broadcaster, Bar and other security officials pushed back during the cabinet meeting against calls by Public Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich to impose varying levels of lockdowns on neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, warning that any measures against those not directly involved in attacks could further inflame tensions.

Channel 12 reported that representatives of the attorney general also warned against broad moves that would constitute collective punishment.

Meanwhile, Police said officers dealt with violent protests in several East Jerusalem neighborhoods on Sunday evening.

In the neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber, police said an officer fired into the air after “feeling threatened,” after dozens of masked Palestinians hurled stones and launched fireworks. There were no reports of injuries.

Police said officers arrested six suspects in the Beit Hanina neighborhood, after they allegedly set fire to bins, hurled stones, and launched fireworks.

There have been clashes in East Jerusalem for several days now, as tensions were high across the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and in the capital.

A bin is set on fire during clashes in East Jerusalem’s Beit Hanina neighborhood, January 29, 2023. (Israel Police)

Tensions have increased dramatically since Thursday morning, when an IDF raid in the West Bank city of Jenin against a terrorist cell left ten Palestinians dead — most of them gunmen and members of the cell, though at least one civilian was also killed. Nine were killed Thursday and the 10th succumbed to his wounds on Sunday, the Palestinian Authority health ministry said.

The IDF said Thursday’s operation in the Jenin refugee camp was necessary to foil imminent attack plans by a local Islamic Jihad terror cell. The group had primed explosives and firearms, according to the IDF.

Thursday night saw rocket fire from Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip and Israeli retaliatory airstrikes.

Security and rescue forces at the scene of a deadly terror shooting attack in Neve Yaakov, Jerusalem, January 27, 2023. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

On Friday night, a Palestinian gunman from East Jerusalem killed seven people and injured three more in the Neve Yaakov neighborhood, and the next morning, a 13-year-old Palestinian shot and wounded two Israeli men near the Old City.

On Saturday evening, a Palestinian gunman opened fire at a restaurant near Almog Junction close to Jericho in the West Bank, causing no injuries, and later that night, a Palestinian man armed with a handgun was shot dead by a security guard near the northern West Bank settlement of Kedumim.

The head of the Police Operations Division separately told reporters on Sunday that there were 41 intelligence alerts of potential terror attacks.

“We have identified signs that we encountered both a year ago and on the eve of Guardian of the Walls, an escalation of the severity of the attacks,” Deputy Commissioner Sigal Bar Zvi said, referring to Israel’s May 2021 war with Hamas in Gaza, which also saw mass unrest in mixed Jewish-Arab towns in Israel.

Police said Saturday that they were raising the national alert to its highest level, following the deadly Jerusalem attack.

“We raised the level of alert and deployed overt and covert forces throughout the country to deter, thwart terror incidents, and give a sense of security,” Bar Zvi told reporters.

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