Military chief Aviv Kohavi on Monday slammed the Palestinian Authority for its inability to govern areas in the northern West Bank, where troops have repeatedly come under gunfire during nightly raids, during a months-long operation aimed at preventing Palestinian terrorists from committing attacks.
The Israel Defense Forces launched the operation, dubbed Breakwater, after a series of deadly attacks that killed 19 people between mid-March and the beginning of May. More than 1,500 suspects have been detained since the start of the operation, according to Kohavi.
“As part of the operation so far, about 1,500 wanted persons have been arrested and hundreds of terror attacks have been thwarted,” he said at a military conference, in remarks provided by the IDF.
“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.
He was referring to the northern West Bank cities of Jenin and Nablus, where recent reports have said the Palestinian Authority warned it is losing control to terror groups.
A video posted to Telegram on Saturday showed Palestinian gunmen practicing with weapons on the outskirts of Jenin. The men carried flags of the Hamas terror group, although the Gaza Strip-based group made no public comment about the footage.
As the IDF has conducted arrests in the two cities in the northern West Bank, Palestinian gunmen have repeatedly opened fire on troops. In an exchange of gunfire in Qabatiya, near Jenin, on Sunday morning, a gunman affiliated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group was killed.
The near-nightly gun battles have largely ended without injuries to Israeli troops, but in May, a veteran of the elite Yamam counterterror police unit was killed, as forces were wrapping up an operation that included raids on terror suspects’ homes.
Meanwhile, at least 88 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces so far this year, according to a tally from the Palestinian Authority health ministry. It included Palestinians who carried out attacks inside Israel, as well as a veteran journalist (Al Jazeera’s Shireen Abu Akleh, who held US citizenship and whose death was deemed an accident by the IDF on Monday), and teens who violently protested in response to Israel’s nightly military operations in their neighborhoods.
Many of the IDF’s arrests in recent months have concentrated on Jenin and Nablus, where a number of the terrorists who committed the attacks earlier this year hailed from.
“As always, even in the face of this development, our test is protecting the citizens of Israel, and our mission is to thwart terrorism. We will reach every city, neighborhood, alley, house or basement for that purpose,” Kohavi said Monday.
“Our activity will continue and we are prepared to intensify it as needed,” he added.
Troops on Monday continued an intensive manhunt for an alleged third member of a cell that committed a shooting attack against a bus carrying soldiers a day earlier, wounding seven people.