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Amid high alert, police minister warns tensions over terror threats could last weeks

Omer Barlev says terrorists trying to get to Israeli towns to carry out attacks; chief of police declares force is on maximum readiness for coming holiday period

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev speaks during a ceremony  in Ma'ale Adumim, September 7, 2022. (Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90)
Public Security Minister Omer Barlev speaks during a ceremony in Ma'ale Adumim, September 7, 2022. (Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90)

Public Security Ministry Omer Barlev on Thursday warned that high alert levels in the country over concerns of potential terror attacks could continue for weeks.

“We are currently seeing repeated attempts to carry out terror attacks against Israeli citizens,” Barlev said at Israel Police headquarters in Jerusalem, during a ceremony to mark the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, which begins Sunday night.

He noted that Israel was entering a month-long holiday period that includes the Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot holidays.

“This tense period may last for many more weeks, during which terrorists and their emissaries will strive to reach cities and towns to harm and kill us,” said Barlev, who is responsible for the police. “But they will find police officers facing them, deployed all over the country, determined, brave and aware of the magnitude of their task.”

Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai told attendees that there was an identifiable rise in the number of alerts on plans to carry out terror attacks and that the force was countering the threat “with large deployments” of officers.

Chief of Israel Police Kobi Shabtai at the scene of the suspected terrorist murder of an 84-year-old woman in Holon, September 20, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Shabtai said that from Saturday night until October 18, police will be at their highest level of readiness.

The plan includes the deployment of thousands of police officers across the country at roadside checkpoints, in shopping centers and leisure spots, at synagogues and in locations where crowds tend to gather.

“Terrorist organizations are not resting even for a moment in their effort to harm the citizens of Israel,” Shabtai said. Against such efforts, the police, together with security services and the military, “are doing everything… to thwart the intentions of terror groups and to hit their sources of financing and incitement,” he said.

A police statement said that “the purpose of the special police preparation during this period is to ensure that every citizen in Israel can travel, engage in leisure activities and celebrate safely.”

Police walk through the Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem’s Old City on September 18, 2022. (Israel Police)

Police called on the public to be vigilant and to phone the national emergency hotline at 100 for “any unusual event that requires police treatment or intervention, at any time.”

Police updates can be received from the force’s information center helpline at 110.

Speaking later to Radio 103FM, Barlev said, “Israeli citizens don’t need to be worried” and should enjoy the holiday period  but “they need to be alert, as always, because an alert citizen can notice if something seems strange, suspicious, or irregular.”

The remarks from Barlev and Shabtai came two days after police said that an 84-year-old woman was murdered in a terror attack in the city of Holon near Tel Aviv. The following morning the suspect was found hanged in a building on Bar Kochba Street in Tel Aviv.

Police believe Mousa Sarsour — a 28-year-old Palestinian from Qalqilya — died by suicide.

Left: The scene of the murder of an 84-year-old woman in Holon, September 20, 2022. (Magen David Adom); Right: The suspect in the attack, named by police as Mousa Sarsour of Qalqilya (Israel Police)

Earlier this week, police said they were preparing to boost security in Jerusalem to keep Israelis and tourists safe as tens of thousands of people were expected to visit the capital during the upcoming holidays.

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