Palestinian terror group Hamas is reportedly calling for a resumption of suicide bombings against Israelis, as the wave of violence sweeping the region in recent weeks continued.
According to the Ynet news website on Monday, which quoted unnamed Israeli sources, Hamas activists in the West Bank cities of Hebron and Nablus have been instructed to blow themselves up in crowded spots in Israeli cities or West Bank settlements. Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, also has a lesser presence in the Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank.
PA forces arrested six members of a Hamas terrorist cell in Hebron overnight, a security official told Ynet. Some of the cell members were in possession of explosives at the time of the arrest, Ynet said. The arrests come after Channel 10 on Friday quoted Palestinian security officials as saying that Hamas operatives in the West Bank were plotting a major terror attack against Israelis.
In recent weeks, PA security forces have arrested more than 19 Hamas members in the West Bank suspected of planning to carry out stabbing attacks, according to Palestinian sources.
Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas official in Gaza, said Sunday that it was necessary to turn the current round of violence into a full-fledged intifada (uprising) against Israel. Rather then stabbing civilians and soldiers with a knife — the weapon of choice among many perpetrators of recent attacks — al-Zahar urged Palestinians to begin using guns and explosives against Israeli targets as well.
Last week, Hamas’s leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, urged further unrest and called for the “strengthening and increasing of the intifada.” Delivering a sermon for Muslim Friday prayers at a mosque in Gaza, Haniyeh said armed resistance was the “only path that will lead to liberation.”
The Islamic terror movement Hamas rules Gaza, the Palestinian enclave squeezed between Egypt and Israel and separated from the West Bank. Gaza has been the site of three wars with Israel since 2008, but it has remained mainly calm amid the current unrest in Israel and the West Bank.
The group has over the past two weeks called for two “days of rage,” exhorting Palestinians to march of Israeli checkpoints.
The current outbreak of violence was fueled by rumors that Israel was plotting to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque and take over the Temple Mount, the holiest site to Jews and the third holiest one to Muslims. Israel has adamantly denied the allegations, saying there are no plans to change the status quo, and has accused the Palestinians of incitement.
Jews can currently visit the religious holy site but are not allowed to pray there.
In efforts to prevent attacks, the security cabinet of senior ministers last week approved the deployment of hundreds of IDF troops in Jerusalem, as well as a partial lockdown on several Arab neighborhoods in the city. Other courses of action passed included the demolition of terrorists’ homes within days of attacks and the banning of new construction, the confiscation of property belonging to terrorists who carry out attacks, and the revoking of permanent residency rights from their families.
The cabinet on Sunday also approved a bill expanding the rules under which police can stop and search potential suspects. Ministers voted unanimously in favor of amending the current law to allow officers to carry out body searches even without reasonable suspicion that the subject is carrying a weapon.
Adiv Sterman and Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.