The Israel Defense Forces said troops arrested four suspects carrying two firearms in the West Bank seam zone, close to the Arab Israeli city of Umm al-Fahm, on Thursday afternoon.
Troops operating in the area near the Palestinian West Bank town of ‘Anin, heard sounds of gunfire and began to search for the source, the IDF said in a statement. At the same time, soldiers operating security cameras identified that the group had crossed the West Bank security barrier into the seam zone area — a swath of West Bank land on the Israeli side of the barrier.
The group was arrested after a brief chase, and two pistols were found in a bag one was carrying.
According to police, the group — a 31-year-old Israeli from Umm al-Fahm, a 33-year-old Israeli from the northern Arab town of Sulam, two Palestinians aged 24 and 47, and a fifth man who fled toward Umm al-Fahm — were practicing with the handguns near a military post, close to the town of Mei Ami, ahead of a weapons sale.
But Hebrew-language media reports, citing the IDF, said the group was believed to have been planning an attack in Israel. In its statement, the IDF did not elaborate on the group’s intentions.
One of the suspects was initially reported to be a volunteer police officer, but Israel Police clarified that he had been booted from the force more than six months ago.
The four were taken to be questioned by the Shin Bet security service, as police launched a manhunt for the fifth suspect.
במערכת הביטחון מעריכים- נמנע פיגוע: כוח של סיירת נח"ל, ששמע ירי באזור אום אל פחם, ביצע מרדף אחרי חמישה חשודים שברחו רגלית. החשודים נתפסו אחרי מרדף. 4 נעצרו ע"י הלוחמים, בהם שני פלסטינים ושני ערבים ישראלים, אחד מהם מתנדב במשטרה עם תעודת שוטר. חשוד חמישי הצליח להמלט לאום אל פחם. pic.twitter.com/RdfOnhkbhw
— איתי בלומנטל Itay Blumental (@ItayBlumental) June 16, 2022
The IDF has dispatched thousands of troops in recent months to the seam zone area to prevent Palestinians from crossing into Israel. Though some of the barrier is a concrete wall, much of it is just fencing.
In recent years, thousands of Palestinians would enter Israel every day through the gaps in the fence for work, but the IDF has vowed to clamp down after several terror attacks were committed by Palestinians who used the gaps to reach Israeli cities.