Palestinian security forces this week thwarted a West Bank bombing attack against Israeli soldiers intended to hamper ceasefire negotiations between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, the Ynet news site reported Friday.
Sources told Ynet the PA forces discovered a large bomb composed of gas canisters, explosives and shrapnel near Route 443, on a road frequently used by IDF forces. The explosive device could have potentially caused a large number of casualties.
The road connects the Palestinian villages of Beit Liqya and Beit Anan. PA forces defused the bomb and notified Israeli authorities, the report said.
The sources noted that the bomb’s characteristics matched the modus operandi of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, as well as Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group. Israeli security forces were examining both possibilities.
They added that the planned attack was likely imminent, in an attempt to destabilize ongoing negotiations on a long-term ceasefire in the Gaza Strip between Israel and the Hamas terror organization.
Hamas condemned the PA’s actions, saying it was “surprised by the ongoing security coordination, in light of what the Palestinian people are subjected to under Israeli policies.”
In January PA security forces discovered and dismantled 12 improvised explosive devices, each weighing between 20 and 30 kilograms, on a road near Tulkarem. They were apparently intended for use against IDF military vehicles passing the area.
The PA later arrested seven Palestinians in connection with the planned attack. They were affiliated with Hamas and some had previously been arrested or interrogated by the PA security forces.
Gaza has seen a surge of violence since the start of the violent “March of Return” protests along the border in March.
The clashes, which Gaza’s Hamas rulers have orchestrated, have included the throwing of rocks and explosives at troops, as well as attempts to breach the border fence and attack Israeli soldiers.
Palestinians in Gaza have also launched incendiary airborne devices toward Israel, burning thousands of acres of forest and farmland resulting in millions of shekels of estimated damages.
At least 171 Gazans have been killed by Israeli fire since the start of the clashes, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. An Israeli soldier was shot to death by a Palestinian sniper. Hamas has acknowledged that dozens of the Palestinian casualties were members of terror groups.
Additionally, Israel and Hamas have engaged in a number of brief exchanges of fire in recent months that have seen terror groups in Gaza launch hundreds of rockets and mortars toward Israeli territory, including one earlier this month that was the largest flareup in violence since the 2014 war.
UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov and Egyptian officials have been seeking to broker a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas. The two sides have fought three wars since 2008.
Israeli media have speculated that a deal could entail easing Israel’s blockade of Gaza in exchange for calm on the border and the return of two Israeli citizens and the bodies of two soldiers killed in the 2014 war — all held by Hamas.
Israel maintains the blockade is necessary to prevent weapons from reaching Gaza that could be used in attacks. Egypt, the only other country besides Israel that borders the Palestinian enclave, also maintains a blockade on the Strip.