Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered an immediate call-up on Friday of Border Police reserves officers, in a major step that likely reflects fears of a further escalation following two deadly suspected terror attacks in a single day, and amid high tensions nationwide after a night of retaliatory airstrikes by Israel in the Gaza Strip and rare artillery fire into Lebanon.
Netanyahu announced the call-up as he huddled with security officials following the suspected car-ramming attack at Tel Aviv’s seaside Charles Clore Park on Friday evening, in which an Italian tourist was killed and seven others were wounded when a 45-year-old Arab-Israeli from Kafr Qassem ran his vehicle at high speed into a group of people walking on the promenade.
Earlier on Friday, two Israeli sisters, British nationals, were killed and their mother was critically hurt in a terror shooting attack in the West Bank. The Israel Defense Forces launched a manhunt for the gunmen and other suspects who fled the scene.
The Israel Police said in a statement that four Border Police reserves units will be mobilized starting on Sunday, following orders from the Defense Ministry and the National Security Ministry. They will join six Border Police reserve units already operating in and around Jerusalem, and in the mixed Arab-Jewish town of Lod in central Israel, as authorities increased its police preparedness ahead of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, usually a period of high tensions between Palestinians and Israeli security forces.
This year, Ramadan coincides with Passover and Easter. Passover began on Wednesday evening.
Netanyahu said he was calling up all reserve forces in Israel’s Border Police “to confront the terror attacks.”
The uptick in violence has come as tensions have spiked in recent days following Israeli police incursions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on the Temple Mount to quell rioting; on Thursday, Hamas terrorists fired volleys of rockets at Israel from Gaza and Lebanon, authorities said. Israel, in response, launched a number of airstrikes against Hamas targets in Gaza and struck the group’s infrastructure in southern Lebanon where it has a presence among Palestinian refugee camps.
There have also been several other attacks in the West Bank, with three soldiers hurt in a car-ramming attack on Saturday, and two more soldiers hurt in separate shooting attacks on Wednesday and Thursday.
On Thursday afternoon, 34 rockets were fired from southern Lebanon into northern Israel, with 25 intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system. At least three people were injured and several buildings were damaged.
The violence has begun spilling over into Arab communities in northern Israel and in East Jerusalem, where police made a number of arrests following clashes and rioting.
On Tuesday, police said they had entered Al-Aqsa after masked youths barricaded themselves inside the mosque atop the Temple Mount with fireworks, clubs and rocks and refused to come out peacefully. Officers apparently believed the group intended to assault Jews visiting the mount on Passover Eve.
The fighting in recent days raised fears of a wider conflagration. Similar clashes two years ago erupted into a bloody 11-day war between Israel and Hamas and saw major rioting and internecine violence in Israeli cities.
The police said the additional Border Police reserves units “will work to increase the presence and strengthen security in city centers and crowded areas.”
Earlier, military chief Herzi Halevi instructed the IDF to call up an unspecified number of reservist soldiers amid heightened tensions across the region.
Halevi said in a statement after the West Bank shooting attack that the call-up would be focused on air defense units and the “air attack arrays,” meaning fighter jet pilots and attack drone operators, as well as other aircrew.
Halevi also instructed the IDF to strengthen defenses in the Central Command following the attack earlier Friday.