The United States has reportedly told Israel it is worried about escalating tensions in the West Bank, as the Israeli military pressed on with a five-month-long operation aimed at preventing Palestinian terrorists from committing attacks.
The Israel Defense Forces launched the operation, dubbed Breakwater, after a series of deadly attacks which killed 19 people between mid-March and the beginning of May. More than 1,200 suspects have been detained since the start of the operation.
The past week alone has seen a number of attacks, as Palestinian gunmen fired at several military posts across the West Bank, and a soldier was stabbed near Hebron. There have also been numerous stone-throwing attacks on Israeli civilians driving in the West Bank.
According to Channel 13 news, Barbara Leaf, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, who’s been visiting the region recently, has expressed serious concern to Israeli officials over the situation in the West Bank.
An unnamed Israeli official was quoted by the network as saying the escalation in the West Bank was “very troubling to the Americans.”
“They expressed fear of a security escalation if this dynamic in which Palestinians are killed continues,” the official said.
At least 85 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces so far this year, according to a tally from the Palestinian Authority health ministry. It included Palestinians who carried out attacks inside Israel, as well as a veteran journalist (Al Jazeera’s Shireen Abu Akleh, who held US citizenship and whose death was under disputed circumstances) and teens who violently protested in response to Israel’s nightly military operations in their neighborhoods.
Channel 13 said Leaf urged economic and other goodwill moves by Israel, but feared even that may not be enough amid the rising tensions.
Israeli officials told Leaf that Israel also does not want a deterioration in the security situation, which is why it is continuing with the widespread arrests, the report said, adding that there was “zero chance” Israel would halt the operation.
The officials who sat down with Leaf told the network that “if we don’t want to have an attack in Tel Aviv or Bnei Brak or Elad, we must enter Nablus and Jenin.” The three Israeli cities were the sites of deadly attacks earlier this year.
Nablus and Jenin are the West Bank cities where the Palestinian Authority has warned it is losing control to terror groups, the report said.
A video posted to Telegram on Saturday, showed Palestinian gunmen practicing with weapons on the outskirts of Jenin.
The men carried flags of the Hamas terror group, although the Gaza Strip-based group made no public comment about the footage.
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Many of the IDF’s arrests in recent months have concentrated on Jenin and Nablus, in the northern West Bank, where a number of the terrorists who committed the attacks earlier this year hailed from.
Agencies contributed to this report.