Police raise alert following deadly IDF raid in Nablus, anticipating revenge attacks

Palestinian officials demand UN action after 11 killed, over 100 wounded during gun battles with troops in northern West Bank

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Palestinians clash with Israeli security forces during a raid in the West Bank city of Nablus, February 22, 2023. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)
Palestinians clash with Israeli security forces during a raid in the West Bank city of Nablus, February 22, 2023. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

Police said Wednesday afternoon that they were raising their level of alert after 11 Palestinians were killed in exchanges of fire during a military raid in the West Bank city of Nablus in the morning hours. The Israel Defense Forces was also anticipating a potentially violent response to the deadly raid.

Palestinian terror groups said at least six of those killed were their operatives. It was not immediately clear whether the remaining five were involved in the clashes or not.

Police said the raising of the alert would include focusing additional security efforts in towns close to the West Bank security barrier, Jerusalem and additional central cities.

The decision came in addition to a number of reservist Border Police units deployed to East Jerusalem, following a string of Palestinian terror attacks in the capital in recent weeks that have left 11 Israelis dead.

The IDF was anticipating a potential response to the deadly raid, a senior military official told reporters. Over the past year, Gaza-based groups — notably Palestinian Islamic Jihad — have launched rockets at Israel in response to members being killed or arrested in the West Bank. A potential response from the West Bank or East Jerusalem was also being anticipated.

Late Wednesday, the IDF said Palestinian gunmen opened fire from a passing vehicle at a checkpoint guarding the illegal Homesh outpost in the northern West Bank. Soldiers returned fire at the vehicle which fled the scene, the IDF said, adding that no troops were hurt.

Mourners carry bodies of Palestinians killed during a raid by Israeli forces in the West Bank city of Nablus, during their funeral procession on February 22, 2023. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh / AFP)

After the deadly raid that saw 11 Palestinians killed and more than 100 wounded, Abu Obeida, spokesman of the Gaza Strip-ruling Hamas’s military wing issued a veiled threat, saying the terror group was “observing the enemy’s escalating crimes against our people in the occupied West Bank, and its patience is running out.”

Palestinian Liberation Organization Secretary-General Hussein al-Sheikh said the Palestinian Authority leadership had decided to again turn to the United Nations Security Council to intervene after the raid.

Al-Sheikh on Twitter said that the PA will “request international protection for our Palestinian people in light of the continuing crimes of the occupation.”

He did not specify how Ramallah was hoping the Security Council will act.
The last time such a deadly raid took place in the West Bank, the Security Council agreed to hold an emergency session where members urged the sides to take steps to calm tensions.

The Palestinian envoy to the UN also demanded action against Israel after the raid.

“The United Nations, which is supposed to stand by the weak and the vulnerable, should stand with the Palestinian people,” Riyad Mansour said, speaking after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at a periodic pro-Palestinian session at UN headquarters in New York.

“We are losing credibility, you are losing credibility, this fabulous system is losing credibility,” Mansour said, calling on the UN to use all of its resources “to put an end to these massacres against our people.”

He also accused the Israeli government of “atrocities” and using “all kinds of pretenses in order to slaughter our people and to create havoc and create horror.”

The IDF said troops had entered Nablus on Wednesday morning to arrest Hussam Isleem, a senior member of the Lion’s Den terror group, who was allegedly the third member of a cell that killed Staff Sgt. Ido Baruch during a shooting attack in October. The other two were detained last week.

A military source told The Times of Israel that soldiers surrounded a home where three suspects, all members of the Lion’s Den terror group, were holed up, demanding they turn themselves in. Officers of the elite police Yamam unit fired missiles at the building, to flush the men out in a technique known as a “pressure cooker.”

Two of the suspects were killed inside the building, while the third was shot dead while he tried to escape.

The IDF named the other two Lion’s Den members as Mohammad Abdul Fattah and Walid Riyad Dkhail. The military said Fattah was also affiliated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and all three men had participated in shooting attacks against Israeli forces in the northern West Bank.

Clashes erupted elsewhere in the city. The IDF said troops came under “massive gunfire,” and responded with live fire at gunmen.

Two Israeli soldiers were lightly hurt by shrapnel during Wednesday’s raid, which came after a similar daytime operation in Jenin last month when 10 Palestinians, including an elderly woman, were killed amid fierce clashes between Israeli troops and gunmen.

That raid was met with international expressions of concern and Palestinian calls for outside intervention. A day later, seven people were shot dead in Jerusalem’s Neve Yaakov neighborhood in the deadliest Palestinian terror attack since 2008.

For the past year, the IDF has been conducting near-nightly raids in the West Bank amid a series of Palestinian terror attacks that killed 32 people in 2022, and another 11 since the beginning of the year.

The IDF’s year-long operation has netted more than 2,500 arrests in near-nightly raids. 171 Palestinians were killed in 2022, and another 60 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.

Jacob Magid and Luke Tress contributed to this report.

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