IDF imposes closure on Nablus after soldier killed in shooting

Roadblocks affect exit from northern West Bank city, junction near scene of attack that killed Staff Sgt. Ido Baruch; military says some roads open with ‘strict security checks’

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

Israeli soldiers block the entrance to Deir Sharaf, near Nablus in the West Bank on October 12, 2022, (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)
Israeli soldiers block the entrance to Deir Sharaf, near Nablus in the West Bank on October 12, 2022, (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

The Israel Defense Forces on Wednesday morning imposed a closure on Nablus, setting up roadblocks near the northern West Bank city, a day after a Palestinian gunman killed an Israeli soldier in the area.

The northern West Bank has seen a surge in violence in recent months, with Palestinian gunmen targeting military posts, troops operating along the West Bank security barrier, Israeli settlements, and civilians on the roads.

The closures affected the usually busy Huwara junction, a major exit route from Nablus heading south; a junction near the town of Awarta in both directions; a road connecting Nablus to the town of Asira ash-Shamaliya; a junction near the town of Deir Sharaf; and a junction near the town of Tell.

The military in a statement confirmed the closures, saying some routes were left open, through which Palestinians may enter and leave Nablus following “a strict security check.”

“As part of the increased security activity in the Nablus area, the IDF decided to block the roads and traffic to and from the city and leave individual roads where a strict security check will be carried out,” the IDF said.

Images published by Palestinian media outlets showed dirt mounts being placed on the Nablus area roads by military bulldozers.

On Tuesday, Staff Sgt. Ido Baruch, 21, was killed when a Palestinian opened fire from a passing vehicle near Deir Sharaf.

The gunman fled the scene at a high speed, according to the IDF’s initial probe of the shooting. Soldiers stationed in the area did not manage to shoot back or stop the vehicle.

Staff Sgt. Ido Baruch, 21, killed in a shooting attack in the West Bank on October 11, 2022, in an undated photo released by the military. (Israel Defense Forces)

The attack came as settlers held a march near the adjacent Palestinian town of Sebastia over a string of recent shootings in the West Bank. The slain soldier was part of a unit securing the march.

An armed Palestinian faction calling itself the Lion’s Den claimed responsibility for the shooting in a statement.

The group — based in Nablus’s old city — was established in recent months by members of various terror groups. Some of its members were apparently previously affiliated with the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

It has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks in the northern West Bank in recent weeks, including one targeting another demonstration held by settlers near Nablus.

Meanwhile, the military confirmed it would escort Israeli civilians to Joseph’s Tomb in the West Bank city of Nablus on Wednesday night.

Israeli soldiers block the Hawara checkpoint, the main entrance to the West Bank city of Nablus, October 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Joseph’s Tomb is located inside Area A of the West Bank, which is officially under complete Palestinian Authority control, though the Israeli military conducts activities there.

The army routinely escorts Jewish worshipers to the shrine, but recently such visits were postponed, following repeated shooting attacks in the area.

The number of visitors to be allowed in Wednesday night is subject to an assessment that will be determined by military officials.

Tensions in the West Bank have spiked, as Israeli forces have ratcheted up arrest raids and other counterterror efforts that Palestinians say inflame anger.

Israeli troops operate in the West Bank, October 12, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

In arrest raids across the West Bank early Wednesday, 10 wanted Palestinians were arrested, the IDF said.

Israel has been carrying out nightly arrest raids across the West Bank since a spate of terror attacks against Israelis in the spring killed 19 people.

Security forces were meanwhile still searching for another Palestinian gunman who killed an Israeli soldier, Sgt. Noa Lazar, 18, at a checkpoint in Jerusalem on Saturday. Police believe the suspect, Udai Tamimi, fled into the Shuafat refugee camp following the attack.

A civilian security guard, David Morel, 30, seriously wounded in the attack remained in a serious and unstable condition, the hospital said in a statement Tuesday.

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