The Israel Defense Forces arrested several suspects in the Hebron area of the West Bank in the early hours of Saturday, as part of the hunt for those responsible for Friday’s terror attack that killed Rabbi Miki Mark.
Large numbers of troops were deployed to the area, working in parallel with Israel’s intelligence agencies, Channel 2 reported, as the defense establishment sought to track down the cell behind the shooting attack that killed the yeshiva leader and left his wife with a serious head wound. Two of their teenage children were also hurt in the attack.
The IDF has stepped up its troop presence in the West Bank, sending two battalions to help secure settlements and the main roads used by Israelis.
Amid the surge in terror, Israel on Friday placed an effective closure on Hebron and announced an immediate cut to tax funds it collects for the Palestinian Authority, saying it would deduct the amount the Palestinian leadership pays to the families of terrorists.
Troops closed all exit roads from Hebron except for the main northern one through the town of Halhul towards Jerusalem, an AFP correspondent reported Saturday. The army has said that around 80 of the attacks on Israelis in the past months have been carried out by Palestinians from the Hebron area.
A meeting of the high-level security cabinet was set for Saturday night, when ministers could decide on further punitive steps.
Mark, a 48-year-old father of 10, was killed and his wife sustained a serious head wound when gunmen opened fire on their car outside the Otniel settlement near Hebron. The as-yet unidentified perpetrators fled the scene.
That attack came a day after a 17-year-old Palestinian terrorist broke into the Kiryat Arba settlement outside of Hebron and stabbed to death 13-year-old Hallel Yaffa Ariel, as she slept in her bed.
Hours after her murder, a Palestinian man from the West Bank city of Tulkarem stabbed and wounded two more Israelis in the coastal city of Netanya.
The IDF has put in place an “effective closure” on Hebron and significantly increased the presence of soldiers in the area, an army spokesperson said Friday.
The additional battalions were brought in as the army sought to get a handle on the surge of violence in and emanating from the West Bank, IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said.
“The IDF is taking several steps to put forces on the ground to try to disrupt terrorist activities in the area surrounding Hebron,” Lerner said.
The divided city of Hebron, as well as East Jerusalem, have emerged as focal points in the ongoing wave of terror that Israel has been experiencing since September.
“Seventy-nine terrorists have originated from Hebron,” Lerner noted.
In light of this increase in violence, after a relatively calm period, the army’s additional steps were “required,” Lerner said.
At this stage, however, the army was not considering a closure on the entire West Bank, Lerner said. “At least not to my knowledge,” he added.
Judah Ari Gross and Itamar Sharon contributed to this report
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