Terrorism ruled out in Sharon-area security scare

Two armed men who fled police and were caught after a massive manhunt in central Israel were not planning a terror attack, Shin Bet concludes

A police roadblock. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A police roadblock. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Two armed men who were caught Tuesday in a massive manhunt in the Netanya area were not intending to carry out a terror attack, Shin Bet interrogators concluded.

Police on Tuesday afternoon called off a massive manhunt for the men after they were caught in the Arab Israeli town of Taibe shortly before 1 p.m. and were taken for interrogation by the Shin Bet. The two were initially believed to be planning a terror attack in the Sharon area.

Large parts of the Sharon area, especially near Kfar Yona and Netanya, were at a standstill for two hours on Tuesday midday after police received “hot” intelligence information indicating that Palestinian terrorists may have entered Israel in the Kfar Yona area.

The two suspects, who were armed when arrested, had reportedly fled from police roadblocks. Police caught up to them in Taibe and arrested them without incident.

The suspects have not been identified, nor is there immediate information about the specific suspicions against them, or what may have led the security services to reportedly reassess these suspicions.

For the duration of the manhunt, beginning at about 11 a.m., the area was on virtual lockdown. Police had deployed roadblocks, particularly along Road 57, the east-west highway leading from Netanya to the West Bank city of Tulkarem. For two hours, police searched every car headed east, particularly in the direction of Taibe and Kalanswa south of the highway, and had temporarily closed the Tnuvot Junction east of Kfar Yona to eastward traffic.

Sharon District police oversaw the search from a hastily-established field command center, and deployed protective roadblocks at the entrances of towns and villages.

After 12:30, police roadblocks were being reported farther south, in the Glilot area south of Herzliya and along the highways entering Tel Aviv from the north.

At least one helicopter and elite police units also participated in the search for the reported infiltrators, reportedly operating in the agricultural fields outside several local villages.

Massive traffic jams are still being reported in the area, despite the lifting of the roadblocks.

“We are treating this [intelligence] alert very seriously, so we have deployed a large number of forces in the field,” a police official told the Walla news site at the start of the manhunt.

Local authorities had ordered schools to “remain on alert and vigilant,” Emek Hefer Regional Council head Rani Eden told Israel Radio at around noon. Schools were instructed to keep kids in class, school gates were ordered closed, and Border Patrol troops were deployed to stand outside schools throughout the region.

“We know there’s a very high alert. We’ve told schools to prepare,” Eden had said.

“Be vigilant,” Kfar Yona mayor Efraim Deri had urged residents. “We’ve increased our own presence,” he said of the city’s security department. “We have security guards in all schools and part of the preschools and kindergartens. We’ve pretty much covered everything.”

He added that additional police and Border Patrol forces had been deployed alongside city workers.

The lifting of the manhunt came as most of the region’s schools began to let out.

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