Suspected would-be terrorist, accomplice arrested in Beersheba

Suspected would-be terrorist, accomplice arrested in Beersheba

Police had set up roadblocks, searched area with helicopters amid concerns of a potential 'security incident'

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

The Israel Police arrested a suspected would-be terrorist and his alleged accomplice following a manhunt in the southern city of Beersheba on Thursday.

Earlier, the police announced there was a potential “security incident” about to take place in the city. They sent in reinforcements, set up roadblocks and scanned the city with a helicopter in the search for the suspect.

Officers first arrested the man believed to be the driver of the main suspect. A short while later, the suspected terrorist was picked up as well, police said.

The suspect was arrested at the “Big” shopping center in the city.

Police told residents they could return to their normal activities.

The police would not specify the specific nature of the threat posed by the suspect.

The manhunt came hours after two Palestinians armed with a knife and wire cutters breached the security fence around Gaza, the fourth such incident in a week despite the army being on high alert in the area.

The men, from southern Gaza, were detained just after crossing into Israel and taken for questioning, the army said.

The infiltration comes as Israel ramps up its security along the border ahead of protests planned for Friday, which security officials fear could see masses of Palestinians trying to breach the boundary.

While Palestinians from the Gaza Strip regularly infiltrate into Israel, there has been an uptick in these breaches in recent days.

On Wednesday an unarmed man was arrested moments after he crossed from the northern Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, near the community of Zikim.

The day before that, a group of three armed Palestinian men infiltrated into Israeli territory from Gaza, walking more than 20 kilometers (12 miles) into the country over the course of several hours before they were arrested outside the Tzeelim army base. They were found to be in possession of grenades and knives.

The army’s failure to immediately realize that there’d been a breach on Tuesday — signs of the infiltration were only found hours after it had happened — prompted Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to call for a full investigation of the incident.

The Israel-Gaza border fence. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Last Saturday, four masked Palestinian men cut through the security fence in southern Gaza and ran into Israeli territory. They tried to set fire to the engineering equipment being used to construct a barrier designed to counter efforts by terror groups to tunnel into Israel.

The Hamas terror group has organized the protest planned for Friday, which are being held under the banner of “March of Return.” Palestinians are planning to construct a tent city across from the Gaza security fence and have called on tens of thousands of Gaza residents to participate in what they described as a “peaceful protest.”

Friday is “Land Day,” which marks the Israeli government’s expropriation of Arab-owned land in the Galilee on March 30, 1976, and the ensuing demonstrations in which six Arab Israelis were killed. It is also, by coincidence, the eve of the week-long Passover holiday.

The protests will continue for six weeks until May 15, the day after the anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel, which Palestinians refer to as the Nakba, or catastrophe.

Israel has prepared for the protests by bolstering troop deployments in the border area, including the deployment of more than a hundred snipers to deal anticipated mass attempts to go through the fence, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot said.

“If the Palestinians think they will organize a march and it will pass the [border] fence and they will march into our territory, they’re wrong,” Eisenkot told the Israel Hayom daily.

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkott speaks at a conference at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, on January 2, 2018. (FLASH90)

“A big portion of the army will be invested there,” Eisenkot told the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, adding that over a hundred snipers, most from “special units,” have been stationed in the area.

“If there will be a danger to lives, we will authorize live fire,” he declared. “The orders are to use a lot of force.”

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