Israel arrests 8 Palestinian students suspected of planning terror attack

In Beirut, leaders of Hamas, PIJ and PFLP agree to ‘escalate’ fight against Israel; 3 shootings at Israeli West Bank targets cause no casualties

A view of Birzeit University, north of Ramallah (YouTube screenshot)
A view of Birzeit University, north of Ramallah (YouTube screenshot)

Israeli security forces said Sunday they had arrested eight Palestinian students suspected of planning a terror attack in the immediate future.

The students, from Birzeit University near Ramallah, were nabbed following an investigation into Hamas cells in Palestinian educational institutions, the Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet said.

They were allegedly recruited by Hamas operatives in Gaza, receiving weaponry intended for the attack.

Officials said some of the suspects had confessed to the allegations.

Also Sunday, three Palestinian terror groups announced plans to escalate their fight against Israel and to increase cooperation between them.

Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine made the statement after a meeting of top officials in Beirut.

The groups “stressed the importance of escalating the comprehensive resistance, especially the armed resistance, in the face of the Israeli occupation, and agreed to strengthen all forms of coordination between the three organizations on all issues.”

Terror group leaders meet in Beirut on September 23, 2023. Left to right: Jamil Mezher, Deputy Secretary-General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine; Ziad Nakhaleh, Secretary-General of Palestinian Islamic Jihadl; and Saleh Al-Arouri, deputy head of Hamas’s politburo (Social media)

They also expressed their pride in ongoing West Bank attacks on civilians and soldiers, calling them “bold, heroic operations that confuse the occupation soldiers and settlers and exhaust them.”

Sunday saw reports of three shootings that caused no injuries: gunfire toward the settlement of Hinanit in the northern West Bank, with bullet holes found in a window; and gunfire toward two military positions in the Tulkarem area.

Overnight two Palestinians were killed and an Israeli soldier was moderately hurt during exchanges of fire near Tulkarem, Palestinians and the military said.

The Israel Defense Forces said it operated against terror infrastructure in the city’s Nur Shams refugee camp, where it destroyed a command center and dozens of explosive devices.

Throughout the activity, gunmen exchanged fire with IDF troops and detonated bombs against them. The army said it fired upon assailants and hit a number of them.

“Two Palestinians were killed by live Israeli bullets to the head,” the Palestinian health ministry said. It identified the two as Osaid Abu Ali, 22, and Abd al-Rahman Abu Daghash, 32.

An Israeli soldier was moderately hurt by shrapnel. He was taken to a hospital for treatment.

Residents inspect damage at the Nur Shams refugee camp in the northern city of Tulkarem in the West Bank on September 24, 2023, following an Israeli raid (Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)

On Saturday the military carried out an airstrike on a Hamas position in the Gaza Strip following the latest riots along the border which included gunfire toward Israeli army forces.

The Israel Defense Forces said a drone struck the post, located near the scene of the day’s riots.

Dozens of Palestinians rioted along the border with Israel earlier, in the latest violent rally near the barrier in what has become a daily occurrence.

Rioters burned tires and hurled makeshift bombs, and gunmen fired toward Israeli forces along the border. Footage showed terror operatives flying balloons carrying incendiary devices toward the border, though there were no reports of balloons sparking fires within Israel.

The military said it responded with riot dispersal measures and live fire in some instances.

Friday also saw the IDF carry out strikes in Gaza after balloon-borne incendiary devices flown over the border sparked three fires in southern Israel, as tensions in the region heated up.

Palestinians have been holding near-daily riots on the Gaza border in recent weeks. During the riots, Palestinians have been detonating explosive devices, setting tires on fire, trying to breach the security barrier and opening fire at troops in a handful of cases.

On Thursday, a Palestinian gunman who opened fire at Israeli forces during rioting on the border was shot and seriously wounded by a Border Police sniper.

Israel has kept shut its sole pedestrian crossing with the Gaza Strip since September 15 in response to rioting on the border.

The closure of Erez Crossing affects 17,000 Gazans who have permits to enter Israel for work. The Strip’s economy is harmed by the laborers being barred entry to Israel.

The rioting in recent weeks has left at least seven Palestinians dead, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in the Gaza Strip. Six of them were killed while mishandling a makeshift bomb that was supposed to be planted on the border, while the seventh was shot by Israeli soldiers.

No IDF soldiers have been wounded in the recent riots so far.

The riots, according to military assessments, come as Hamas seeks to resolve a dispute it has with Qatar over monthly funding the Gulf nation provides to the Palestinian enclave.

Hamas has reportedly asked Qatar to increase the monthly sum to adjust for inflation, but Doha so far has not agreed to the demand. The terror group apparently launched the riots on the Gaza border to pressure Israel, which would in turn pressure Qatar to solve the issue.

Gaza has been blockaded by both Israel and Egypt for over 15 years in an attempt to contain the enclave’s Hamas rulers. Israel says the tight restrictions on goods and people are necessary due to the terror group’s efforts to massively arm itself for attacks against the Jewish state.

Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.

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