Gallant warns terror groups of ‘crushing’ response to attacks over Jewish holidays

Defense minister holds assessment with IDF brass ahead of High Holidays, says Israel’s enemies will attempt to harm citizens during festivities

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

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant holds an assessment with top military and defense officials at his office in Tel Aviv, September 7, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant holds an assessment with top military and defense officials at his office in Tel Aviv, September 7, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Thursday warned terror groups “not to test” Israel during the upcoming Jewish holiday season, and vowed a “crushing” response if they launch attacks.

“We are in a complex security period in all the areas, and especially in [the West Bank] and surrounding Jerusalem,” Gallant said during an assessment with senior military and defense officials.

“In order to make sure that the citizens of Israel will get through the holiday season safely, the defense establishment is being widely deployed, in intelligence, in the protection of the roads and settlements, and in operations to foil terror operatives and those who send them,” he said.

Gallant told the officials that “during this period, there will be those who will try to harm us under the auspices of the holidays.”

“Against the terror elements, we will take defensive actions, and if an offensive is required, we will do so in a crushing manner,” Gallant said.

“I suggest to all the terror elements, in the [West Bank], in Gaza, in Lebanon, or anywhere else, don’t test us,” he added.

Participating in the meeting were IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, the deputy director of the Shin Bet security agency, head of the IDF Operations Directorate, Maj. Gen. Oded Basiuk, and the head of the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate, Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Ghassan Alian, and other senior officials.

Jews gather at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem on October 12, 2022, for the annual priestly blessing, during the holiday of Sukkot. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

Religious festivities tend to be a tense time across the region, especially in Jerusalem, as throngs of people descend on the city and its holy sites, increasing the likelihood of clashes between followers of different faiths.

Last week, the National Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau issued an updated set of travel warnings ahead of the High Holidays, placing a particular emphasis on the threat of kidnapping by Iranian-backed groups abroad and by Hamas.

The warning indicated that Iranian forces and their proxies are continuing their efforts to contact Israelis abroad under the guise of businessmen in order to kidnap them. Jews and Israelis in countries bordering Iran, or in Africa or the Mediterranean Basin, face a particular threat from Iranian operatives, said the directive.

Israel regularly issues travel warnings ahead of the High Holidays in September, and Passover, both of which are peak travel periods for Israelis.

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