Elite officer seriously hurt in West Bank raid led team that nabbed Gilboa fugitives

Chief Superintendent S. and his unit killed 3 Islamic Jihad members allegedly headed to commit attack in Israel; he is said to have played key role in other major ops over 20 years

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

Chief Superintendent S., a senior commander in the Yamam counter-terrorism unit, speaks to the Kan public broadcaster, September 19, 2021. (Screenshot: Kan public broadcaster)
Chief Superintendent S., a senior commander in the Yamam counter-terrorism unit, speaks to the Kan public broadcaster, September 19, 2021. (Screenshot: Kan public broadcaster)

A police officer seriously wounded in a gunbattle with members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group early Saturday was identified as a senior commander in the Yamam counter-terrorism unit.

Chief Superintendent (the police equivalent of Lieutenant Colonel) S. — who can only be identified by his rank and the first letter of his name — was the commander of a squad responsible for capturing two of six terror convicts who escaped from a prison in northern Israel last year.

According to the Ynet news site, S. played a key role in several deadly counter-terror operations and arrests of “prominent terrorists” in the last 20 years.

S. was hurt in the pre-dawn hours Saturday when his unit attempted to arrest a cell of Islamic Jihad members in the northern West Bank village of Arraba, near Jenin, as they were allegedly en route to commit an attack in Israel.

The gunmen opened fire at the troops, seriously wounding S., and lightly hurting four others. He underwent surgery and was hospitalized in intensive care at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, where he was listed in stable condition.

The three suspects were killed in the gunbattle and the military later arrested an alleged fourth member of the cell in a rare daylight operation in the town of Shuweika, near the West Bank city of Tulkarem.

Palestinian men check bloodstains left on the ground in the area where Israeli security forces reportedly killed three Islamic Jihad gunmen when they came under fire, on April 2, 2022, near the northern West Bank city of Jenin (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, who visited Rambam, said the cell planned to cross into Israel from the West Bank and carry out a shooting attack similar to the one earlier this week in Bnei Brak in which five people were killed.

“I just visited the Yamam fighters, who at pre-dawn eliminated a cell of terrorists that was en route to commit an attack inside Israeli territory,” Shabtai told reporters.

Chief of Police Kobi Shabtai speaks during a ceremony in the northern city of Nazareth, on November 9, 2021 (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

Officials described the three cell members as “ticking bombs” who were ready to carry out an attack.

Islamic Jihad said the three killed were members of its military wing and named them as Saeb Abahara, 30, from the village of Yamun near Jenin, Khalil Twalba, 24, from Jenin and Saif Abu Libdeh, 25, from Tulkarm.

The incident came amid soaring tensions in Israel and the West Bank, including in the Jenin area.

Weapons and ammunition seized from Islamic Jihad members after a gunbattle in the West Bank, April 2, 2022. (Israel Police)

A series of three 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 footing. The escalation has come as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began — often a period of high tension in Israel and the West Bank.

One of the three attacks was carried out by a Palestinian from the Jenin area; the two others by Israeli citizens claiming an affiliation with the Islamic State.

On Thursday, at least two Palestinian gunmen were killed in a firefight with Israeli troops when commandos entered Jenin in a rare daytime raid as part of a large-scale anti-terror operation following the recent attacks. At least 14 other Palestinians were wounded in the incident and dozens were arrested in the operation.

The IDF said the arrest operation — dubbed “Breakwater” — targeted individuals suspected of planning future attacks, as well as some thought to be tied to Tuesday’s deadly attack in Bnei Brak. Additionally, a Palestinian from Hebron was detained for alleged affiliation with Islamic State.

In response, the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group threatened to escalate violence against Israel.

IDF soldiers operating near the West Bank city of Jenin, on March 31, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israel has ramped up security measures in response to the attacks and deployed additional forces to the West Bank, Gaza border and major cities such as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Friday reports said Israeli security officials have concrete warnings of imminent terror attacks and have foiled a number of other planned attacks in recent days.

The Kan public broadcaster said Friday that Defense Minister Benny Gantz and IDF chief Aviv Kohavi ordered the military to prepare for a month-long escalation.

Extra troops are expected to remain in the field, and Kohavi has instructed the IDF to step up its intelligence collection in Syria, Sinai, and on Palestinians in Lebanon.

Kohavi vowed that the military will “act in every way to stop” terror attacks, while Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Israel “will overcome them this time too.”

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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