'Whatever it takes, we will break this wave of terror'

Gantz vows to ‘flood the streets’ with thousands of reservists if needed

Facing terror escalation, Public Security Minister Barlev calls for civilians to volunteer for security patrols; ministers to discuss Ramadan restrictions at Al-Aqsa Mosque

Defense Minister Benny Gantz gives a press conference at IDF Central Command headquarters, on March 30, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz gives a press conference at IDF Central Command headquarters, on March 30, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Wednesday that Israel is under a “murderous terror onslaught” after 11 people were killed in three attacks over the past eight days.

“We are taking offensive and defensive actions,” Gantz said following a security assessment with Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi and Central Command chief Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs.

“I’ve ordered [the defense establishment] to aid Israeli police in the form of equipment, manpower and additional personnel,” Gantz said, after earlier in the day ordering police forces bolstered with 1,000 soldiers.

He said the defense officials are leading intelligence efforts to make preventive arrests of potential attackers, adding that he signed off earlier Wednesday on several administrative detention warrants for several suspected terrorists.

“If necessary, we will recruit thousands of reservists who will flood the streets and operate wherever operational activity is required,” Gantz added. Israel rarely calls up reservists, except for training purposes.

“Whatever it takes, we will break this wave of terror. We will bring back peace and stability in a forceful, smart and responsible manner,” he said.

Gantz did not announce any changes to Israel’s plans during the upcoming Muslim holy month of Ramadan, typically a period of high tension, especially in Jerusalem.

Following Gantz’s statements, the IDF announced that all combat units posted in the West Bank will remain on base until Friday, with a possible extension for the order to be discussed later in the week.

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev attends a ceremony at the National Headquarters of the Israel Police in Jerusalem, on September 5, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Security officials are scrambling to respond after a wave of terror attacks in the past week, including a shooting on Tuesday in Bnei Brak that killed five people. The Palestinian gunman was killed by police at the scene.

On Sunday, two Border Police officers were killed in a shooting attack in Hadera. The Arab Israeli gunmen were affiliated with the Islamic State jihadist group.

Five days earlier, four people were killed in a terror attack in the southern city of Beersheba. The terrorist — previously convicted of attempting to join IS — was shot dead by passersby. He was also an Israeli citizen.

Ten Palestinians have been killed in violent confrontations with Israeli troops in recent weeks. Some died in gun battles with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank, others during attempted attacks.

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, whose office oversees police, on Wednesday called on civilians to enlist in the civil guard and ordered the immediate call-up of several Border Police companies to bolster forces in the field.

“I call upon caring citizens who want to take part in the public effort to go and volunteer,” he said during a press conference.

A Border Police officer stands guard near East Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate, overnight January 27, 2022. (Israel Police)

The string of deadly attacks has underlined concerns about escalating violence during Ramadan.

The security cabinet was set to convene later Sunday for the first time since the start of the crisis to discuss possible restrictions during Ramadan.

While no measures have been implemented on holiday observances yet, security officials, for the first time in nearly two years, were set to present ministers with recommendations. Ramadan can draw tens of thousands of worshipers to prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, creating a potentially volatile situation.

According to the Haaretz news site, police are requesting to limit the entry to the Al-Aqsa Mosque for West Bank residents during the first week of Ramadan to those over the age of 60.

Speaking to reporters, Jerusalem District Police Commander Doron Turgeman said that while Jewish visits to the Temple Mount during Ramadan will still be allowed, they will be limited.

Illustrative: An Israeli police officer stands guard as a religious Jew in army uniform visits the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, in the Old City of Jerusalem on August 3, 2021. (AP Photo/ Maya Alleruzzo)

“Our goal is to maintain a proper order of life during the holidays for all religions, to allow freedom of worship for all religions, while maintaining the security of the citizens in the area,” he said following an assessment meeting with IDF, police, Shin Bet and municipal officials.

The Ynet news site reported that over 3,000 police officers will be posted at potential hotspots across the capital, with estimations that at least 400,000 people will visit Al-Aqsa during the course of the Muslim holy month.

Channel 12 said Turgeman would decide later Wednesday on whether to approve far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir’s intended visit to the Temple Mount. The visit could provoke a further escalation around the tinderbox holy site.

Last May, tensions around Ramadan and an 11-day conflict with the Gaza Strip escalated into the worst rioting in decades between the Jewish and Arab communities. Arab Israeli leaders have condemned the recent terror attacks.

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