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Two arrested outside settlement as possible attack thwarted

Palestinians, including relative of abductor of Israeli teens, apprehended as they approach Tekoa, south of Jerusalem, armed with knife

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Security forces seen patrolling the settlement of Tekoa after two Palestinian men armed with a knife were detained outside the community, December 9, 2014. (photo credit: Times of Israel)
Security forces seen patrolling the settlement of Tekoa after two Palestinian men armed with a knife were detained outside the community, December 9, 2014. (photo credit: Times of Israel)

Two Palestinians, one of them armed with a knife, were detained by security forces as they approached a settlement south of Jerusalem on Tuesday.

The men were apprehended near Tekoa, in the southern West Bank, by the settlement’s security coordinator and a group of IDF soldiers who were called to the scene.

During initial questioning the men confessed to planning an attack on the community, according to reports.

The Palestinians were identified as two Hebron-area residents who had been sought by Israeli security forces since Friday, after the army received information of a possible planned terror attack.

One of the detained men was identified as Hebronite Muhammad Abu Aysha, 34, a relative of Amer Abu Aysha, one of the two men who kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teenagers in June, according to the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency.

The second man was named as Jabrin Muntaz, 17, from the town of Yatta outside Hebron.

A large manhunt was dispatched in the Hebron area Monday night to search for the two, the army said.

A statement from Tekoa said the two had approached near the settlement to carry out a terror attack, but were thwarted by “alert security.”

Pictures circulated on social media Tuesday morning allegedly showed one of the suspects handcuffed and a weapon that appeared to be a cutlery knife.

During the incident, residents of the settlement were instructed to stay indoors as security forces swept the area to ensure it was safe.

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Amer Abu Aysha and Marwan Kawasme, both from Hebron, were part of a Hamas-affiliated cell that kidnapped Eyal Yifrah, 19, Naftali Fraenkel, 16, and Gilad Shaar, 16, from a hitchhiking post near Hebron on June 12 and then murdered them, the Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported.

The attack set off Israel’s Operation Brother’s Keeper, which was aimed at finding the teenagers and dealing a blow to Hamas’s infrastructure in the West Bank, which Israel accused of being behind the operation. The bodies of the three teens were found on June 30 in shallow grave on a plot of land belonging to the Kawasme clan.

The abduction and killing sparked a summer of rising tensions that climaxed with Operation Protective Edge, the 50-day war between Israel and Hamas in and around the Gaza Strip.

The arrests came a month after a Palestinian man killed 26-year-old Dalia Lemkus from Tekoa after stabbing her in the neck as she waited at a bus stop at the entrance to the Alon Shvut settlement, also in the southern West Bank.

Lemkus was the daughter of South African immigrants to Israel. Two other people were also injured in the attack, and the terrorist was shot by a security guard on duty in the area and hospitalized.

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