Police were put on increased alert in Jerusalem and surrounding areas Tuesday, amid fears that Palestinians may attempt to exact revenge for a raid by Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Jenin that left six dead hours earlier.
The heightened level of readiness was put in place as the holiday of Purim began in the capital, the largest of several cities that celebrate the Jewish festival a day after the rest of the country.
“Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai has ordered increased vigilance and a visible police presence in Jerusalem,” a police statement said.
The statement singled out the seam line between East and West Jerusalem and neighborhoods with mixed Jewish-Arab populations as flashpoint areas where police were being deployed.
“It is important to note that the Israel Police are currently busy with a long series of missions to allow the general public to celebrate the Purim holiday safely all over the country,” the statement added.
The move was announced hours after Israeli troops entered Jenin and surrounded a house as they hunted the suspected terrorist who killed two Israelis in the West Bank last week. The incursion set off a gunbattle that left six Palestinians dead, including Abdel Fattah Hussein Kharousha, 49, the wanted terrorist.
Kharousha, a Hamas member from the Askar refugee camp near Nablus, opened fire on an Israeli car driving through the northern West Bank town of Huwara on February 26, killing Israeli brothers Hallel and Yagel Yaniv.
Palestinian health officials said another 12 people were injured, three seriously.
Three Israeli soldiers were injured, one moderately and two lightly.
Troops also raided Nablus, arresting the two sons of the Huwara killer, Khaled and Muhammed Kharousha, the Israel Defense Forces said.
According to the Shin Bet, the pair were suspected of planning and helping carry out the terror shooting in Huwara.
After the raid, the parents of the two brothers killed in the Huwara attacks expressed relief that Kharousha had been killed.
“A burden has been lifted from our hearts when we heard that the terrorist was killed and not arrested,” the parents said in a statement. “We are thankful that today, on Purim, the mourning turns to joy, we have been comforted a little by the killing of the terrorist.”
Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians have been high for the past year, with the IDF conducting near-nightly raids in the West Bank amid a series of deadly Palestinian terror attacks. Those tensions have ramped up in recent weeks amid a cycle of Israeli raids and Palestinian revenge attacks, as well as an uptick in settler violence.
Following the Huwara shooting, a group of radical settlers rampaged through the town, burning homes and vehicles. A Palestinian man was killed and multiple people were injured in violence that shocked many in Israel and abroad, with some terming the incident a “pogrom.”
A string of Palestinian attacks in Jerusalem and the West Bank in recent months left 14 Israelis dead and several more seriously hurt.
At least 70 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the year, most of them while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces, but some were uninvolved civilians and others were killed under circumstances that are being investigated.
Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.