The IDF is considering using attack helicopters and drones to protect troops if they come under heavy fire from Palestinian gunmen during military operations in the West Bank, Hebrew media reported Monday.
The report comes after a commando from an elite police counterterror unit was killed when Israeli forces came under considerable fire during a raid Friday in the Jenin area.
Israel has used its attack helicopters in the past in the West Bank, but only in special circumstances and not as a matter of routine. However, the army brass is now mulling the move amid an increase in the size and intensity of recent clashes, particularly in the Jenin area.
The Haaretz website reported that the army is also debating the use of armed drones that can drop grenades. It is said to be trying to determine if the weaponry is suitable for use in West Bank sites like the Jenin refugee camp, which is very crowded, heightening concerns about civilian casualties.
The report said the drones in question were designed for use in Lebanon or the Gaza Strip.
The military’s reported reevaluation of tactics in the West Bank comes after Sgt. Maj. Noam Raz, a 23-year veteran of the elite Yamam counterterror unit, was killed during fierce exchanges of fire Friday between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen near Jenin.
Raz was hit as forces were wrapping up an operation that included raids on terror suspects’ homes. A senior officer in the military’s Central Command said the amount of gunfire directed at troops was “indescribable.”
Several Palestinian terrorists behind recent deadly attacks that left 19 dead hailed from Jenin and its environs. Israeli forces have been carrying out raids in the area, including an operation early Wednesday, May 11, in which a prominent Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot dead during clashes between armed Palestinians and Israeli soldiers.
Meanwhile, Channel 12 reported Monday that one of the gunmen wounded in the Friday clash was an Arab Israeli teenager.
The network said the 18-year-old, whom it did not name, was hospitalized in Israel alongside Daoud Zubeidi, after they were wounded in the battle. Zubeidi, whose brother Zakaria Zubeidi is a convicted terror leader who last year escaped from Gilboa Prison for a week before being recaptured, later died of his wounds.
The unsourced report said the Arab Israeli teenager was born to a Palestinian father and Israeli mother and lives in Jenin.