Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered top defense officials on Thursday to step up anti-terror efforts in the West Bank, zeroing in on the Palestinian city of Huwara where a gunman opened fire on an Israeli family Thursday evening.
Netanyahu’s meeting with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, Shin Bet security service director Ronen Bar, head of the IDF Central Command Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs, and the prime minister’s military secretary, came hours after an Israeli couple and their baby emerged unharmed from the shooting attack on their vehicle in Huwara earlier Thursday evening.
“We should not put up with terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria,” Netanyahu told officials Thursday, using the biblical terms for the West Bank regions, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.
Netanyahu instructed the IDF and the Shin Bet “to increase defense and countermeasures against the terrorist elements, focusing immediately on the Huwara corridor,” the statement said.
On Thursday night, dozens of Israeli settlers entered Huwara to protest the shooting attack, with some damaging Palestinian property, leading to clashes with locals, the military said.
The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that the groups threw rocks at each other, leading to some light injuries as well as some damage to vehicles. Three Israelis were lightly injured in the clashes, the Rescuers Without Borders emergency service said.
فيديو| مستوطنون يعتدون على المحال التجارية في بلدة حوارة جنوب نابلس. pic.twitter.com/OcX2te0sRg
— شبكة قدس الإخبارية (@qudsn) October 5, 2023
In one incident, a Palestinian suspect hurled a large cinderblock on an Israeli-owned vehicle, to which Israeli forces responded by opening fire and hitting him, the military said Thursday night. The Palestinian Authority health ministry said the man, Labib Muhammad Labib Dhamidi, 19, was shot dead.
The IDF had earlier announced that it had ordered Palestinian stores to close in Huwara, “for the purpose of strengthening the security deployment in the area.”
— Newpress | نيو برس (@NewpressPs) October 5, 2023
Police and Border Police forces were bolstered in the area on Thursday night, and an additional company of infantry troops was also to be deployed there, according to the IDF.
The settlers eventually left the town following the clashes. There were no reports of arrests made.
In his sit-down with defense officials, Netanyahu demanded that the timeline for a road to bypass Huwara — where a number of deadly Palestinian shooting attacks against Israelis have taken place this year — be halved, responding to settler officials who accuse his hardline coalition of failing to rein in terror. Work on a bypass road has dragged on for years.
Huwara, south of Nablus, has long been a flashpoint in the northern West Bank due to a main thoroughfare, Route 60, that runs through the town and is used regularly by Israelis traveling between settlements in the West Bank.
Six months later, a father and son were gunned down while at a carwash in the town by a shooter who approached on foot. Several others, civilians and soldiers, have been hurt in separate shooting attacks in Huwara over the past 10 months.
On Thursday, a family identified by officials as a man and a woman aged 25, along with their 18-month-old daughter, were driving on a congested road through Huwara when a gunman approached with a weapon, firing at the car several times as it sped away. There were no injuries.
The suspected assailant fled the scene and was shot dead by troops several hours later.
Netanyahu asked the IDF and security forces to present him with additional actions to combat terrorism and increase security for Israeli residents in the West Bank. A meeting on those suggestions will be held on Sunday, the PMO statement said.
The head of the Samaria Regional Council, Yossi Dagan, criticized the Netanyahu government Thursday following the shooting, lamenting that “the right-wing government has failed time and again to provide Israelis in the center of the country with security.”
תמונות מזעזעות מפיגוע הירי בצומת עינבוס בפאתי חווארה בשומרון שהסתיים בנס ללא נפגעים בגוף
צילום: נדב גולדשטיין TPS pic.twitter.com/ka3seOwMqn
— איתי בלומנטל Itay Blumental (@ItayBlumental) October 5, 2023
“We will not accept a situation in which time after time [terrorists] target and attempt to murder Jews,” Dagan said in a statement. He demanded “an immediate return of checkpoints in the heart of Samaria” and a widespread military operation in Palestinian towns to root out terrorists.
“We expect results from the government. We expect our national honor to be restored, and we expect security,” he said.
Zvi Sukkot, a lawmaker from the far-right Religious Zionism party set up a sukkah in the Palestinian town in response to the latest shooting, remaining there for several hours on Thursday night.
עשרות יהודים פתחו בשיעור תורה בציר המרכזי של הכפר חווארה, בזירה בה התרחש הפיגוע היום – ואחרי שהקימו סוכה במקום. המשטרה: "בקרוב נתחיל לחלק דוחות", ח"כ צבי סוכות מוביל את האירוע וכוחות מג"ב ומשטרה רבים באיזור@hod_barel pic.twitter.com/mpZiftKawM
— גלצ (@GLZRadio) October 5, 2023
Violence has surged across the West Bank over the past year and a half, with a rise in Palestinian shooting attacks against Israeli civilians and troops, near-nightly arrest raids by the military, and an uptick in revenge attacks by extremist Jewish settlers against Palestinians.
Earlier Thursday, two Hamas terrorists were killed by Israeli troops after opening fire at an Israeli motorist near the settlement of Avnei Hefetz. That incident came hours after five Border Police officers were wounded, including three seriously, during clashes with Palestinian gunmen in the nearby West Bank city of Tulkarem.
Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank since the beginning of the year have left 27 civilians and three soldiers dead, and several others seriously wounded.
According to a tally by The Times of Israel, 194 West Bank and East Jerusalem Palestinians have been killed during the same period — the majority during clashes with security forces or while carrying out attacks, but some were uninvolved civilians and others were killed in unclear circumstances, including by armed Israeli settlers.