IDF sending extra combat troops to West Bank as violence surges
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IDF sending extra combat troops to West Bank as violence surges

Military says decision to deploy additional battalion to area made in wake of ‘situational assessment,’ follows 3 attacks on Israeli forces in West Bank and Jerusalem on Thursday

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Israeli soldiers clash with Palestinians during a manhunt for a Palestinian man who rammed his car into IDF troops earlier in the day, in Bethlehem on February 6, 2020. (Musa Al Shaer/AFP)
Illustrative. Palestinians wave national flags in front of Israeli soldiers during a protest outside the West Bank village of Tubas, near the Jordan Valley, on January 29, 2020, against the US President Donald Trump's peace proposals. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)

The Israel Defense Forces on Thursday announced it was sending additional troops to the West Bank in light of the increase in violence in the region.

The military said the decision was made after an “ongoing situational assessment.” The IDF said it was deploying one extra battalion, which usually comprises a few hundred soldiers.

The decision came after three attacks on Israeli security forces in the West Bank and Jerusalem in the course of Thursday and amid a general spike in tensions and violence between Israel and the Palestinians, with a deadly clash in Jenin, riots elsewhere in the West Bank, and continuing launches of projectiles and explosive devices from Gaza.

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett met with senior IDF officers in the military’s Kirya headquarters in Tel Aviv, after returning to Israel from an official visit to the United States.

“The IDF will increase the readiness of its troops in Judea and Samaria ahead of the weekend, alongside a harsh response to the launching of [explosive] balloons from the Gaza Strip,” his office said, using the biblical term for the West Bank.

This was the third round of reinforcements to be sent to the area since the release of US President Donald Trump’s plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict January 28. With the unveiling of the plan, the IDF immediately deployed additional troops to the Jordan Valley. As protests picked up on January 29, the military sent additional combat soldiers to the West Bank.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, right, speaks with the head of the Central Command Maj. Gen. Nadav Padan, center, following a series of attacks on Israeli troops in the West Bank and Jerusalem on February 6, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi visited the West Bank on Thursday, meeting with the head of the Central Command Nadav Padan, the commander of the Judea and Samaria Division Yaniv Alaluf and other senior officers.

“We have no intention to let terror win. The directive in the field is very clear, clear down to the last soldier — to thwart and prevent every [terrorist] activity,” Kohavi told the officers.

“When I say terror, I also mean the rocks, the Molotov cocktails, the explosive balloons, all of these are terror,” he said.

The Palestinian Authority immediately rejected the Trump proposal, which was widely seen as being overwhelmingly biased toward Israel, and threatened to cut all security cooperation with Israel.

In the week and a half since the plan’s release, the military has noted a significant increase in violence in the West Bank.

Palestinians clash with Israeli security forces in the Bethlehem area as the IDF searches for a suspect wanted for a car-ramming attack earlier in Jerusalem that left 12 soldiers injured, one seriously, on February 6, 2020 (Musa Al SHAER / AFP)

“We are dealing with a week that has been relatively violent,” IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman said on Thursday morning.

The spokesman cited increased riots, resistance to arrests and general friction in the West Bank.

“The IDF has been focused on the Palestinian front in recent weeks, and we will establish a harsh and clear response do all of these incidents,” Kohavi said.

On Thursday afternoon, a soldier was lightly wounded in a shooting attack along a highway in the central West Bank on Thursday afternoon.

The Israel Defense Forces said a gunman opened fire at a group of soldiers who were stationed near the Parsa Junction outside the Dolev settlement, northwest of Ramallah on Thursday afternoon. The troops opened fire at the suspect and launched a manhunt to find him.

The soldier sustained a light wound to the head, with the bullet grazing him, and was fully conscious, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service.

Medics at the scene of a suspected car-ramming attack in Jerusalem on February 6, 2020 (MDA)

The reported drive-by shooting was Thursday’s third attack on Israeli troops, following a predawn car-ramming that injured 12 in Jerusalem and a shooting attack near the entrance to the Temple Mount in which a Border Police officer was lightly wounded.

Thursday also saw significant clashes in Jenin during the demolition of a terrorist’s home, in which a Palestinian police officer and a Palestinian police cadet were killed in separate incidents under unclear circumstances.

On Wednesday, a Palestinian teenager was also shot dead by Israeli troops as he threw a Molotov cocktail at them in Hebron, the military said.

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