ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 143

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Likud source: Ben Gvir, Strock 'extremists acting like kids'

Far-right ministers blame Gallant for deadly terror wave; one MK urges ‘revenge’

Netanyahu calls security cabinet meeting for next week following West Bank attack; President Herzog warns against vigilante reprisals

Michael Bachner is a news editor at The Times of Israel

Composite image shows Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, left, and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, right. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Composite image shows Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, left, and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, right. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Several far-right ministers blamed Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for Monday’s deadly terror attack in the southern West Bank and urged him to reimpose widespread military roadblocks throughout the territory as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a meeting of the high-level security cabinet for next week.

An Israeli woman, Batsheva Nigri, was shot dead while a man, Aryeh Gottlieb, was seriously wounded in the attack near the southern West Bank city of Hebron earlier in the day.

The pair, both in their 40s, came under fire from a passing vehicle while driving on the Route 60 highway, close to the Beit Hagai Junction.

National Missions Minister Orit Strock, from the Religious Zionism party, blamed the defense minister, who is part of Netanyahu’s Likud party.

“Another bloody attack made possible just because of the lack of a necessary decision. Roads in Judea and Samaria should not be a green light for terror,” she said, using the West Bank’s biblical name.

“Defense minister, the decision is in your hands. Make it before the next attack,” she said, indicating she sought greater restrictions on movement for Palestinians.

Members of Israeli security forces and emergency services stand at the scene of a deadly shooting attack near Hebron in the southern West Bank, August 21, 2023. Inset: Batsheva Nigri, who was killed in the attack. (HAZEM BADER / AFP; courtesy)

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir of the Otzma Yehudit party also called the current defense policy “too lenient.”

He demanded that a meeting of the security cabinet be called to discuss reimposing roadblocks and closing off some Palestinian towns.

“We are in the midst of a wave of terror and our policy is too lenient,” he said.

MK Orit Strock takes part in a march to the illegal Evyatar outpost, near the West Bank city of Nablus, on April 10, 2023 (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)

Netanyahu’s office later announced that a planned meeting of the high-level forum of ministers was being brought forward to next week following Monday’s attack, as well as another deadly terror attack on Saturday in which a father and son were shot and killed in the West Bank town of Huwara.

The security cabinet meeting was originally scheduled for September 10.

A source in the Prime Minister’s Office asserted to the Walla news site that the decision had nothing to do with Ben Gvir’s demand to immediately convene the top-level forum.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a cabinet meeting at the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem, July 17, 2023. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

Separately, Walla quoted an unnamed senior Likud official lambasting Strock and Ben Gvir for their criticism.

“Ben Gvir and Strock want a military campaign with 150 dead soldiers,” the official was quoted as saying. “They are irresponsible extremists with no understanding of security who are behaving like children who don’t know how to delay gratification. The extremists in the government are dancing on the victims’ blood for cheap politics.”

President Isaac Herzog appeared to warn against settler vigilante attacks and said support should be given “only” to the IDF and security forces following the attack.

In recent months, several terror attacks have been followed by rampages by extremist settlers through Palestinian towns.

“The people of Israel have always known how to be united, determined and responsible and to support and back up the IDF and the security forces — and only them — in our constant and uncompromising struggle against terror,” Herzog said.

President Isaac Herzog in Jerusalem, June 14, 2023 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

However, MK Yitzhak Kroizer of Ben Gvir’s extremist party called for “revenge,” adding: “Jewish blood isn’t cheap.”

Religious Zionism MK Ohad Tal said the hard-right government, lauded by its supporters as a “fully right-wing government,” was in need of “self-examination.”

Yisrael Lior, the brother-in-law of the man who was seriously injured in the attack, addressed Netanyahu in comments to the media, saying: “There is a nation that wants to expel us, and it is time to return fire. The murderer should be expelled along with his collaborators and their entire extended families. They should be barred access to any road in which they harmed us.”

Gallant was set to hold an assessment with top military and defense officials later Monday, his office said.

Israeli security forces seen at the entrance to the West Bank city of Hebron, after the deadly shooting attack on Route 60, August 21, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Nigri, the attack’s victim, was a mother of three and a kindergarten teacher from the West Bank settlement of Beit Hagai, and a former resident of Efrat.

A 12-year-old girl, reported to be Nigri’s daughter, who was in the car during the attack, was unharmed, medics said.

The vehicle was hit by at least 22 rounds, with another three bullet impacts found nearby, according to the military’s initial investigation.

IDF soldiers at a nearby post heard gunfire but did not immediately identify that an attack had occurred. By the time troops reached the scene the terrorists had fled, according to a preliminary probe.

The IDF said it had launched a manhunt for the terrorists and closed off a number of roads in the area. The military encircled Hebron and was questioning Palestinians entering and leaving the city.

Security forces later found a burnt-out vehicle near the Palestinian town of Halhul, which apparently matched the description of the terrorists’ car.

Hebrew-language media reports said that Nigri and her young daughter had hitched a ride with Gottlieb.

The Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups praised the attack as a response to Israel’s expanding settlement enterprise in the West Bank, but stopped short of claiming responsibility.

The attack came two days after a Palestinian terrorist killed two Israeli men, a father and son, while they were doing errands in the Palestinian West Bank town of Huwara. Shay Silas Nigreker, 60, and his 28-year-old son Aviad Nir were shot dead at a carwash on Saturday afternoon.

Violence has surged across the West Bank over the past year and a half, with a rise in Palestinian shooting attacks against Israeli civilians and troops, near-nightly arrest raids by the military, and an uptick in revenge attacks by extremist Jewish settlers against Palestinians.

Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.

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