In rare move, fighter jet said to carry out West Bank strike

IDF, Shin Bet: Terror cell planning ‘imminent attacks’ targeted in West Bank operation

Palestinian Red Crescent says 5 dead in Balata; security services say fatalities include senior terrorist who ran cell of youths deployed to carry out attacks

A damaged building after an Israeli operation at the Balata refugee camp near the West Bank city of Nablus, November 18, 2023. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)
A damaged building after an Israeli operation at the Balata refugee camp near the West Bank city of Nablus, November 18, 2023. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

The Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet security service said Saturday that a number of terrorists killed in an overnight West Bank operation were planning “imminent” attacks on Israeli civilians and troops.

The statement said forces and aircraft struck a hideout apartment in the Balata refugee camp near Nablus.

According to Army Radio, while the military has on occasion used fighter jets to carry out strikes in the West Bank, the overnight operation was the first time a plane has hit a target in Nablus since the Second Intifada.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said five Palestinians were killed. Haaretz reported that four of those killed were affiliated with Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, citing “hospital testimonies.”

Those killed included Muhammad Zahad, described by the Israeli security services as a “senior terrorist” in Nablus who was involved in a number of shooting attacks, including an April attack in which two Israelis were injured in Jerusalem.

The statement said Zahad formed and armed a terror cell of youths, which he deployed to carry out attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers.

According to the statement, forces also uncovered an explosives laboratory in Balata.

Additionally, explosive devices were planted along and under the streets of the refugee camp to target Israeli troops, the security services said.

During the operation, gunmen opened fire on Israeli troops, but there were no Israeli casualties.

The operation occurred amid the war between Israel and the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip following the latter’s October 7 massacres in southern Israel, in which 1,200 people were murdered and some 240 were abducted, and amid growing tensions and several recent Palestinian attacks on Israelis in the West Bank and in Jerusalem.

A damaged building after an Israeli operation at the Balata refugee camp near the West Bank city of Nablus, November 18, 2023. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

On Friday, the IDF said that its troops had killed seven Palestinian gunmen in two separate incidents in the West Bank.

The military said Palestinians opened fire on Israeli forces Friday morning from a vehicle at an intersection near the southern West Bank city of Hebron where Israeli forces were operating.

Reservists returned fire, killing the gunman and the driver, the IDF said, adding that no soldiers were hurt.

Troops also clashed with gunmen during a raid in the northern West Bank city of Jenin and the adjacent refugee camp, capturing weapons and chasing terror operatives attempting to hide in a hospital.

The IDF said a drone struck a group of gunmen shooting at the forces amid the raid. Other Palestinians hurling explosives were shot at during clashes.

The army said troops killed at least five Palestinian gunmen and captured six assault rifles in the Jenin camp. Palestinian media reported three dead, with the reason for the discrepancy in numbers not immediately clear.

The IDF also said it operated in Hebron, measuring the homes of three Palestinian gunmen ahead of their potential demolition. The gunmen opened fire at a checkpoint near Jerusalem Thursday, killing Avraham Fetena, 20, a soldier with the Military Police.

According to the Palestinian Authority health ministry, some 200 West Bank Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, and in some cases settlers, since October 7.

According to the left-wing Yesh Din rights group, there have been more than 185 settler attacks against Palestinians in over 84 towns and villages around the territory since October 7.

Since war broke out, the IDF says troops have arrested 1,800 wanted Palestinians across the West Bank, including more than 1,050 affiliated with Hamas.

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