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Lapid: PA serviceman’s involvement in killing of IDF officer ‘an escalation’

PM suggests Palestinian Authority weakness to blame for incident in which Maj. Bar Falah was killed by Palestinian gunmen near Jenin; Gantz: Ramallah must ‘self-examine’

Ahmed Abed (right) and Abdul Rahman Abed, who opened fire at IDF troops, killing one, and were killed in the subsequent firefight on September 14, 2022 (Composite image: Twitter)
Ahmed Abed (right) and Abdul Rahman Abed, who opened fire at IDF troops, killing one, and were killed in the subsequent firefight on September 14, 2022 (Composite image: Twitter)

Prime Minister Yair Lapid said Wednesday that the fact that one of the two gunmen involved in the killing of an army officer overnight was a member of the Palestinian Authority security forces was “an escalation,” while implying the incident represented a loss of control by the PA.

The gunman he was referring to was Ahmed Abed, a PA intelligence officer.

Maj. Bar Falah, 30, was killed in the early morning hours in a clash with two gunmen at the West Bank security barrier near the Palestinian village of Jalamah. The gunmen were killed in the exchange of fire.

“We will not hesitate to act anywhere the Palestinian Authority does not enforce order,” Lapid said. “The IDF and the Shin Bet are prepared for any scenario to prevent terrorism from raising its head… Israel will cause serious harm to anyone who tries to harm it.”

Lapid paid tribute to Falah, calling him an “Israeli hero” and saying he was killed “when he and his soldiers bravely… eliminated the terrorists.”

Falah was laid to rest in Netanya Wednesday evening.

The military said Falah was killed while leading his troops to arrest the two men who were under surveillance, but the troops did not know the pair were armed. The military was investigating the incident.

According to the IDF, soldiers operating surveillance cameras spotted the two suspects in the so-called seam zone between the West Bank and Israel proper, near the Palestinian village of Jalamah, before dawn on Wednesday. Troops dispatched to investigate flanked the pair and initiated arrest procedures, leading to the exchange of fire.

Maj. Bar Falah, 30, the deputy commander of the elite Nahal reconnaissance unit, who was killed in a firefight with two terrorists near the West Bank security fence on September 14, 2022. (Courtesy: Family)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz ordered the closure of the Jalamah and Salem checkpoints between Israel and the northern West Bank until further notice following the incident.

“In recent weeks we have seen an increase in the scope of terrorism,” Gantz said while touring the scene. “I am standing at a place that allows a good livelihood for Palestinians living in Jenin and the region.

“In light of the shooting and [other] attacks here, I decided to extend the crossing’s closure until further notice.”

Gantz said the involvement of a PA security officer was “serious” and was “a warning sign to the Palestinian Authority that must self-examine and act.”

The defense minister also said the attack had harmed stability and that this “first and foremost harms the Palestinian residents and the PA itself.

“Where the PA will not exercise sovereignty, we will take care of our security.”

Gantz also ordered a halt of entry permits to Israel for residents of Kafr Dan, the hometown of the two gunmen, until further notice.

US Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf said Wednesday that the Biden administration is working to ensure continued security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority amid the ongoing spike in West Bank violence, though she did not directly address Wednesday’s incident.

In a phone briefing on Wednesday about her recent trip to the region, Leaf said the US is very concerned about the deteriorating security situation, which was at the top of her agenda during meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials.

But while acknowledging that Israeli-PA security coordination can help curb the violence, economic improvements for Palestinians are also critical, Leaf said, adding that the US is working to promote such steps.

Wednesday’s deadly incident occurred less than two weeks after IDF chief of staff Aviv Kohavi slammed the Palestinian Authority for its inability to govern areas of the West Bank.

“Part of the increase in terrorism stems from the helplessness of the Palestinian Authority security forces, leading to a lack of governance in certain areas of Judea and Samaria, and these are fertile grounds for terrorism,” Kohavi said, referring to the West Bank by its biblical name.

Emanuel Fabian and Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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