3 gunmen killed en route to attack, police say; 4 Israeli troops hurt in clash

Police say Palestinian Islamic Jihad suspects fired on counter-terror unit that tried to arrest them near Jenin; Israeli officer badly injured but stable; terror group vows revenge

IDF soldiers operating near the West Bank city of Jenin, on March 31, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF soldiers operating near the West Bank city of Jenin, on March 31, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Three members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group were killed and four Israeli troops injured during an arrest operation in the West Bank in the pre-dawn hours of Saturday morning.

One of the Israelis, a senior officer, was severely injured and flown by helicopter to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. He underwent surgery, was hospitalized in intensive care and was in stable condition.

Three other troops were lightly hurt, including one who was released from the hospital later that morning, officials said.

The gunfight broke out when terror suspects opened fire on an Israeli team from the Border Police’s elite Yamam counter-terror unit that attempted to arrest them.

The Shin Bet internal security service said the suspects were in a vehicle when they engaged with the Israeli troops in the village of Arraba, southwest of Jenin.

The suspects appeared to have been on their way to carrying out an attack, Israeli authorities said.

“Information was received of a terror squad on its way to commit an attack,” police said, adding that the group was also involved in recent terror activities against Israeli security forces.

The suspects had been under Shin Bet surveillance for several hours ahead of the shootout, and Israeli troops found firearms and grenades in their vehicle.

Police released images of the weapons said to have been in the suspects’ vehicle, including an M16 assault rifle, at least two 30-round magazines and a hand grenade.

Weapons and ammunition seized from Islamic Jihad members after a gunbattle in the West Bank, April 2, 2022. (Israel Police)

A will was found in the terror suspects’ vehicle, in which one wrote that attacks against Israel must be continued.

The handwritten note was signed in the name of the Islamic Jihad.

The arrest operation was a joint effort involving Yamam, the Shin Bet and the IDF, police said.

Hours later, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group said the three killed were members of its military wing.

The group vowed revenge for the deaths and said that it would continue its attacks against Israel.

The incident came amid soaring tensions in Israel and the West Bank, including in the Jenin area.

A series of three deadly terror attacks killed 11 people in Israel in a week, including a shooting that killed five people on Tuesday, putting Israeli security forces on heightened alert footing. The escalation has come as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began — often a period of high tension in Israel and the West Bank.

One of the three attacks was carried out by a Palestinian from the Jenin area; the two others by Israeli citizens claiming an affiliation with the Islamic State.

On Thursday, at least two Palestinian gunmen were killed in a firefight with Israeli troops when commandos entered Jenin in a rare daytime raid as part of a large-scale anti-terror operation following the recent attacks. At least 14 other Palestinians were wounded in the incident and dozens were arrested in the operation.

Palestinian gunmen take part in the funeral of two Palestinians who were killed by Israeli security forces during clashes, during their funeral in Jenin, in the West Bank, March 31, 2022. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

The IDF said the arrest operation — dubbed “Breakwater” — targeted individuals suspected of planning future attacks, as well as some thought to be tied to Tuesday’s deadly attack in Bnei Brak. Additionally, a Palestinian from Hebron was detained for alleged affiliation with Islamic State.

In response, the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group threatened to escalate violence against Israel.

Israel has ramped up security measures in response to the attacks and deployed additional forces to the West Bank, Gaza border and major cities such as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Friday reports said Israeli security officials have concrete warnings of imminent terror attacks and have foiled a number of other planned attacks in recent days.

The Kan public broadcaster said Friday that Defense Minister Benny Gantz and IDF chief Aviv Kohavi ordered the military to prepare for a monthlong escalation.

Extra troops are expected to remain in the field, and Kohavi has instructed the IDF to step up its intelligence collection in Syria, Sinai and on Palestinians in Lebanon.

Kohavi vowed that the military will “act in every way to stop” terror attacks, while Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Israel “will overcome them this time too.”

Also Friday, Palestinian Authority health officials said a 29-year-old Palestinian man was killed by live Israeli fire during clashes with soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron.

The IDF confirmed that troops opened fire and hit a man in Hebron, saying that he “threw a firebomb at troops, endangering their lives.”

Israeli officials have sought to head off tensions ahead of Ramadan amid fears that the violence could snowball into the same type of unrest that rocked Israel in May 2021, when Hamas began shooting rockets into Israel, sparking an 11-day war with Gaza and days of rioting between Arabs and Jews inside Israel.

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