Israel closing off West Bank amid fears of further terror attacks

After Jerusalem suicide bombing, security forces concerned Hamas aims to carry out more attacks, stir up disturbances

Israeli police check a burned-out bus that was blown up in a terror attack in Jerusalem on April 18, 2016. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)
Israeli police check a burned-out bus that was blown up in a terror attack in Jerusalem on April 18, 2016. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

Israel is closing off the West Bank at midnight on Thursday night, amid fears of attacks by the Hamas terror group during the Jewish holiday of Passover, which begins Friday night. The Islamist terror organization was behind Monday’s suicide bombing on a Jerusalem bus that wounded 20 people. Channel 2 said that the closure would take effect at midnight and last until Saturday night.

According to Channel 10, Israel has “warnings, although not concrete,” of plans for terror attacks in the coming days.

The station showed celebrations in al-Ayda, the refugee camp in the Bethlehem area of the West Bank where Monday’s teenage bomber Abed al-Hamid Abu Srour lived. Youths there chanted that there would be more attacks, and candies were handed out in celebration of the bombing.

Abu Srour came from a well-known Bethlehem clan, some of whose members have a history of terrorism and violence against Israel. His father told Channel 2 on Thursday that he “knew nothing about his affiliation” with Hamas, while Channel 10 reported just hours later that the father praised his son’s actions.

Abdel-Hamid Abu Srour, the suicide bomber in an April 18 bus bombing in Jerusalem (Courtesy)
Abed al-Hamid Abu Srour, the suicide bomber in an April 18, 2016, bus bombing in Jerusalem (Courtesy)

The Shin Bet said several Hamas members from Bethlehem have been arrested in connection with the attack, following an intensive manhunt by the security service, police and the IDF. Six people have been arrested in total, Channel 10 said, adding that Hamas is engaging in new efforts to encourage Palestinian attacks against Israelis.

Israel is concerned that Jewish visits during the week-long Passover holiday to the flashpoint Temple Mount site, which is holy to Jews and Muslims, will be used a pretext to trigger further Palestinian unrest, Channel 10 said.

Monday’s attack marked the first suicide bombing in the wave of Palestinian terrorism that erupted last October. Hitherto, the attacks — stabbings, shootings and car-rammings — had been characterized as “lone wolf” incidents. Hamas has been encouraging attacks on Israelis, and several plots are said to have been thwarted by security forces.

While Israel faces the prospect of a new Hamas bid to carry out major terror attacks against its population, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot maintains that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is making a real effort to fight terrorism, it was reported Thursday.

Abbas’s Fatah movement, which was ejected from the Gaza Strip by Hamas in a bloody 2007 coup, is in control of the West Bank. According to Channel 2, Eisenkot cautiously praised the PA for an increased effort in clamping down on terrorist activity — saying the PA security apparatus was now making a 40% effort, as compared to 10% in the recent past.

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