IDF prepares to demolish homes of alleged terrorists behind deadly Hebron attack

Military maps out residences of both gunmen in West Bank city; prominent Islamic Jihad member among 19 detained in overnight raids

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

IDF combat engineering forces take measurements at the home of a Palestinian accused of carrying out a deadly shooting attack near Hebron, early August 23, 2023, (Israel Defense Forces)
Illustrative: Israeli troops measure the home of Islamic Jihad terrorist Kamel Abu Bakr, who killed Tel Aviv patrolman Chen Amir, in the West Bank village Rummanah, August 6, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli troops operated in the West Bank city of Hebron early Wednesday morning to prepare to demolish the homes of two Palestinians accused of killing an Israeli woman in a terror attack.

Batsheva Nigri, a 42-year-old mother of three, was shot dead in front of her daughter in the attack near Hebron on Monday morning. Another man was seriously wounded in the attack.

Israeli security forces arrested two men, reported to be brothers, suspected of carrying out the shooting the following day.

The Israel Defense Forces said combat engineering forces took measurements of both homes early Wednesday, in preparation for their potential demolition.

The IDF said that Palestinians hurled stones and Molotov cocktails, as well as launched fireworks at troops during the operation. No soldiers were hurt.

Footage showed Palestinians hurling stones at a convoy of IDF vehicles as it left the area.

Israel regularly demolishes the homes of Palestinians accused of carrying out deadly terror attacks as a matter of policy. The process usually lasts several months, including court hearings for potential appeals by the families. The efficacy of the policy has been hotly debated even within the Israeli security establishment, while human rights activists denounce the practice as unjust collective punishment.

Also early Wednesday, the IDF said troops detained 19 wanted Palestinians and seized several firearms during overnight raids across the West Bank, with clashes in some areas.

Palestinian media outlets reported that among the detainees was Maher al-Akhras, a former prisoner accused by Israel of being a prominent Palestinian Islamic Jihad member. Al-Akhras had been freed by Israel in November 2020 after waging a 103-day hunger strike in protest of being held without charge.

Defenses sources confirmed to The Times of Israel that al-Akhras had been arrested early Wednesday in the northern West Bank town of Silat al-Harithiya.

Palestinian detainee Maher al-Akhras arrives at his home in the West Bank village of Seylat al-Dhahr, south of Jenin city, following his release by Israeli authorities on November 26, 2020. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

The government has been under heavy pressure to rein in a wave of deadly Palestinian terror attacks in Israel and the West Bank. At a Tuesday security cabinet meeting, far-right ministers advocated for measures that have been met with pushback from top security officials, including assassinations of Palestinian terror leaders in the West Bank and rescinding entry permits for Palestinian laborers. Far-right coalition lawmakers and settlers have been increasingly at odds with the security establishment in recent months.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office issued a statement after the meeting, saying ministers agreed on “a series of decisions to target terrorists and authorized the prime minister and the defense minister to act on the matter.” The statement did not elaborate on what those decisions were.

In a joint statement on Tuesday, the Shin Bet security agency, Border Police, and Israel Defense Forces said the two shooting suspects — relatives — were caught in Hebron by members of the police’s elite Yamam counterterrorism unit.

The Shin Bet said the suspects, Hebron residents, “linked themselves” to the shooting attack, which occurred close to the Beit Hagai junction. Israeli forces also seized an M-16 assault rifle, suspected to have been used in the attack.

The two suspects were named by Palestinian media as Saqer and Mohammed a-Shanter, and were said to be brothers.

Batsheva Nigri, who was killed in a terrorist attack near the West Bank city of Hebron on August 21, 2023. (Courtesy)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant ordered the military’s liaison to the Palestinians, known as COGAT, to revoke the entry permits to Israel of dozens of relatives of the two suspected terrorists.

In the Monday morning attack, kindergarten teacher Nigri was killed, and Aryeh Leib Gottlieb, a father of six in his 40s, was seriously wounded. Nigri’s 12-year-old daughter was in the vehicle at the time of the attack and emerged unharmed.

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

Nigri was laid to rest Monday night at the Gush Etzion regional cemetery in Kfar Etzion, where family and friends mourned her as a dedicated mother, wife, and teacher.

Israeli forces at the scene of a deadly shooting attack near the West Bank city of Hebron, August 21, 2023 (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

The attack came two days after a Palestinian terrorist killed two Israeli men, a father and son, while they were doing errands in the northern West Bank town of Huwara. Shay Silas Nigreker, 60, and his 28-year-old son Aviad Nir were shot to death 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. Most of the violence has taken place in the northern West Bank, while Hebron, in the south, has been more quiet.

The IDF said Monday it was bolstering the West Bank with an additional infantry battalion and two companies, following the two recent deadly terror attacks.

Since the beginning of the year, some 1,560 wanted Palestinians have been detained by Israeli troops, and 750 illegal firearms have been seized, according to fresh statistics from the Israel Defense Forces released late Tuesday.

IDF troops have carried out more than 1,900 separate arrest operations in the West Bank during the same period, according to the data.

Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank have left 29 people dead and several others seriously wounded since the beginning of the year, including in Monday’s shooting.

According to a tally by The Times of Israel, 174 West Bank Palestinians have also been killed during the same period — most of them during clashes with security forces or while carrying out attacks, but some were uninvolved civilians and others were killed under unclear circumstances, including by armed Israeli settlers.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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