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Israeli forces near Ramallah nab terror cell suspected of planning imminent attack

Troops arrest 4 Palestinians including suspect accused of killing Israeli in 2015, one man said killed in clashes during raid, amid crackdown in West Bank

IDF soldiers are seen operating in the West Bank on April 13, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF soldiers are seen operating in the West Bank on April 13, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli forces on Wednesday arrested several Palestinians suspected of planning to carry out attacks in coming days, as security forces ramped up operations against suspected terror operatives in the West Bank.

According to police, troops from the elite Yamam counter-terrorism unit and Shin Bet security service surrounded a building in the town of Silwad, northeast of Ramallah, where three suspects were holed up.

Police said the suspects did not answer calls to surrender, leading troops to fire upon the house. The three Palestinians, none of whom were harmed, then exited the building.

Soldiers also arrested a suspect in the nearby town of Kobar. All four suspects were taken for Shin Bet questioning.

Clashes erupted during the raid in Silwad, with Palestinian officials reporting one man shot and killed by Israeli troops. The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry identified him as 20-year-old Omar Alayan.

Video from the clashes showed an Israeli military vehicle crashing into a wall, as Palestinians pelt it with rocks. Other troops later rescued the force from the scene.

The Shin Bet named one of the suspects arrested in Silwad as Maad Hamed, a Hamas operative accused of shooting Israeli Malachy Rosenfeld in a 2015 terror attack near Ramallah.

Malachy Rosenfeld (Facebook)

The Shin Bet said Hamed had been in Palestinian Authority custody since the attack, but recently escaped.

A statement from the security service said the suspected reason for his escape “was to advance a terror attack against Israeli targets in the immediate future.” It added that the other suspects in Silwad were planning terror activities together with Hamed, but did not further elaborate.

Officials reportedly fear that terrorists may be planning an attack on Passover, which starts on Friday evening.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett released a statement hailing Hamed’s arrest.

“The long arm of Israel will reach whoever lifts a hand against us. There is no expiration date for this,” the premier said.

Palestinians suspected of terror activities have been arrested in raids across the West Bank in recent days. Most of the activity has been centered around the northern West Bank city of Jenin, though forces also turned their attention to the Ramallah area in the central West Bank Wednesday.

Separately, Channel 13 news reported that a Palestinian man arrested Wednesday morning in Tulkarm was planning a terrorist attack during Passover.

The suspect initially fled when officers tried to detain him, before being shot and taken into custody.

He was arrested as troops carried out raids in the northern West Bank. Clashes broke out in several cities, including in Husan, where a Palestinian man throwing firebombs was shot and killed by Israeli troops, the IDF said.

Earlier in the day, the Israeli military said its forces shot an armed suspect during clashes in which stones and firebombs were thrown at troops in the northern West Bank town of Beita.

But Palestinian officials said Mohammed Assaf, 34, just happened to be driving through the area at the time.

Murad Shtaiwe, a Fatah party spokesman, said Assaf, a lawyer, was driving relatives to school. They passed through an area where clashes were taking place and Assaf was fatally shot, Shtaiwe said.

“What happened today is a new crime,” he said.

The Israeli military did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Palestinian health ministry said 11 others were injured as a result of the Israeli military’s activities in the area. The military said one soldier was lightly wounded in the clashes and that it arrested 15 people in those raids Wednesday.

Israel has sent troops to comb through Palestinian cities and villages in recent days, looking for suspects or accomplices tied to recent attacks on Israelis. Last week, a Palestinian gunman opened fire on a packed Tel Aviv bar, killing three and fleeing the scene, sparking an hours-long manhunt that culminated in his killing by police.

That assault, as well as three other attacks elsewhere in Israel in recent weeks, have killed 14 people, the deadliest outburst of bloodshed against Israelis in years.

Earlier, Israeli forces secured a shrine in Nablus, believed by some to be the tomb of the biblical Joseph, after it was vandalized by Palestinians in recent days.

Egypt’s foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Hafez said the Arab state strongly condemned Israel’s West Bank operations and what he called excessive force against Palestinians Wednesday. Hafez urged in a statement for “containing such growing and accelerating developments,” which could lead to further escalation and mutual violence.

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