A member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad cell killed during a raid by Israeli security forces early Saturday had been on the Shin Bet’s radar since firing at troops in the West Bank earlier this week, Israeli television reported.
Saif Abu Libdeh, a 25-year-old resident of Tulkarm, fired over 50 bullets at IDF troops patrolling along the so-called seam line on Tuesday, according to Channel 12 news. No soldiers were hurt.
The network said the Shin Bet has been on Abu Libdeh’s tail since and tracked him during a rally Friday in Jenin, where he appeared armed with an M-16 rifle.
“Soon you’ll hear about me,” he allegedly said. “I’m going to do something very big in Israel.”
The unsourced report said security officials believe he intended to carry out a killing spree similar to the recent terror attacks in Beersheba, Hadera, and Bnei Brak, in which 11 people were killed in total.
Two other suspects — Khalil Twalba, 24, from Jenin, and Saeb Abahara, 30, from nearby the village of Yamun — were killed during the shootout with Israeli forces, which left four officers wounded, including one seriously.
— Bilal | بلال (@bilal2468) April 2, 2022
A fourth suspecter member of the cell was arrested Saturday in the Palestinian town of Shuweika, near the West Bank city of Tulkarem.
The Israel Defense Forces later released video showing troops surrounding the suspect’s home before he attempted to flee. The military said an M-16 rifle and ammunition were seized during the raid.
IDF publishes a video of troops operating in Shuweika near the West Bank city of Tulkarem earlier today, during the arrest of an alleged member of the PIJ cell en route to an attack in Israel pic.twitter.com/8bLsgjWbfu
— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) April 2, 2022
Officials have said the cell was on its way to carry out an attack in Israel at the time of the arrest operation. Ahead of a meeting Saturday evening with top Shin Bet officials, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said security forces foiled a “ticking time bomb.”
“We certainly assume there will be many more attempts and we are working right now to prevent them,” Bennett said.
In response to the recent attacks, Israeli security forces have been placed on heightened alert, with reinforcements sent to the West Bank, seam line, and major cities. The escalation has come as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began — often a period of high tension in Israel and the West Bank.
Israeli officials have sought to head off tensions ahead of Ramadan amid fears that the violence could snowball into the same type of unrest that rocked Israel in May 2021, when Hamas began shooting rockets into Israel, sparking an 11-day war with Gaza and days of rioting between Arabs and Jews inside Israel.