IDF troops seize weapons in West Bank, raid university

‘Hamas propaganda’ confiscated from Birzeit campus; 15 Palestinians arrested in overnight operations

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Students at Birzeit University, north of Ramallah (YouTube screenshot)
Students at Birzeit University, north of Ramallah (YouTube screenshot)

Israeli soldiers raided a West Bank university overnight Sunday, seizing materials linked to local terror cells as well as “Hamas propaganda,” the IDF said.

Birzeit University was one of the targets in a series of raids carried out across the West Bank overnight, an army spokesman said. During the operations, soldiers arrested 15 terror suspects, seized weapons stockpiles and made preparations to destroy the home of a Palestinian man who attacked soldiers earlier this week.

The army said the raid on Birzeit, located near the West Bank city of Ramallah, was directed at terror cells believed to be operating from the campus.

“Security forces seized materials including propaganda for Hamas belonging to the illegal association ‘Kotla,’ known for its links to the Hamas terror organization,” an IDF statement read.

“Incitement is a major factor fueling the recent terror. Localized cells affiliated with large organizations, including Hamas, promote and encourage terror and acts of violence against Israeli civilians and security forces,” the statement added.

The army has stepped up its routine nightly raids in West Bank towns and villages as a wave of stabbing, shooting and car-ramming attacks continues across the country, with over 25 Israelis having been killed in such attacks since October. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has blamed incitement by Palestinian leaders for the ongoing violence.

Birzeit, considered the best university in the West Bank, has long been a center of political activism. In April of last year, Hamas beat out political rival Fatah in the Birzeit student council election, marking a dramatic turn in the school’s political alliances.

Weapons and ammunition seized by IDF soldiers in the West Bank village of Kfar Itrach, January 11, 2016. (IDF Spokesman)
Weapons and ammunition seized by IDF soldiers in the West Bank village of Kfar Itrach, January 11, 2016. (IDF Spokesman)

Twelve of the detainees picked up overnight are suspected of direct involvement in recent attacks on civilians and security forces, with one belonging to Hamas, the army said.

During an arrest in the West Bank village of Kfar Irtah, soldiers seized weapons and ammunition stockpiles suspected of being held for use in future attacks.

Soldiers also mapped out the house of Palestinian man who tried to stab IDF soldiers Saturday morning near the West Bank settlement of Beka’ot, east of Nablus.

Twenty-three-year old Mahmad Akab Mahmad from Kfar Jadida near Jenin was one of two assailants shot dead in the incident. No Israelis were injured.

The practice of demolishing the family homes of terrorists has been criticized by nongovernmental groups, but officials have defended its use as a deterrent against future attacks.

Critics claim that, in addition to being a form of collective punishment, house demolitions could motivate family members of terrorists to launch attacks themselves.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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