A number of Israeli civilians and soldiers were wounded over the weekend following five separate attacks by Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
The attacks followed several weeks of quiet. A year ago, a wave of Palestinian violence began, consisting mainly of knife and vehicle attacks, killing at least 40 people. However, such violence had appeared to recede to just a few incidents over the summer.
On Sunday, an IDF reserve officer was stabbed and moderately wounded by a Palestinian attempting to infiltrate the Israeli community of Efrat, just south of Bethlehem. The assailant was shot and wounded before being arrested by Israeli troops.
The stabbing followed another knife attack on Saturday in the West Bank city of Hebron, which has been a flashpoint for violence during the last year. An Israeli soldier was wounded and the assailant was shot dead at the scene.
A day earlier, in a similar incident in Hebron, another soldier was injured and a knife-wielding assailant shot dead. Meanwhile, just hours earlier in nearby Kiryat Arba two Palestinians rammed a car into a bus stop of waiting commuters. Three Israeli civilians were injured, before troops opened fire, killing one of the assailants and wounding the other. Also on Friday, a Jordanian man stabbed Israeli police at the Damascus Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City, before being shot and killed. It remains unclear why the man was in Israel.
On Monday, two police officers sustained serious injuries after a Palestinian terrorist stabbed them near Herod’s Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. The terrorist was neutralized by one of the wounded officers.
The weekend violence prompted the IDF to send an additional battalion of soldiers from the Kfir infantry brigade to the West Bank. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet yesterday that “the risk threshold has risen”.
Meanwhile, the IDF said: “The motivation and inspiration to carry out attacks against Israelis remains strong.”
The attacks and a spike in social media incitement have bolstered the Israeli defense establishment’s assessment that an escalation in Palestinian violence can be expected ahead of the Jewish High Holidays next month and holiday season, Israel’s Channel 2 reported.
In an interview with Channel 2 , Israel’s Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Information Minister Gilad Erdan declared: “Towards the holidays, a time when Jews visit holy sites in Jerusalem, the level of Palestinian incitement is likely to increase,” Erdan said.
Nevertheless, asserted Erdan, “There has been a drastic decrease in the number of attacks. Israel is a leader in confronting terrorism and has succeeded in quashing the current wave.”
Army preparing for nationwide drill, will simulate massive rocket attack
Meanwhile, the IDF Home Front Command is preparing for a nationwide drill next week, which will simulate massive rocket attack on Israeli towns and cities, possibly from multiple fronts.
The drill, which will run from Sunday to Thursday, will include a nationwide air raid siren on Tuesday. The goal of the exercise is to prepare the public for the scenario of a mass rocket attack. The Home Front Command has been working with emergency services, government ministries and local authorities to prepare for such an eventuality.
The IDF has emphasised that the exercise does not reflect any imminent threat.
However, it estimates that Israel’s enemies possess around 230,000 rockets, more than half of which are in the hands of Hezbollah. The Home Front Command predicts that around one per cent would directly hit buildings, causing hundreds of casualties.
Meanwhile, the IDF Paratrooper Brigade conducted a surprise training exercise this week on the Golan Heights, simulating a scenario in which they would be forced to carry out an operation in Syria against jihadist terror groups following a mass infiltration across Israel’s border. The drill apparently included practicing raids on terrorists in civilian areas and the destruction of weapons caches.
Although reserve units have carried out similar drills in the past, this week’s Paratroopers’ exercise will help enable a rapid response to such a situation. The exercise will apparently culminate next week in a parachute operation, simulating deployment deep into enemy territory should Hezbollah open a second front in Lebanon during a conflict on the Syrian border.
Ynet news quoted an unnamed senior Paratrooper Brigade officer, who said that unlike Hamas and Hezbollah, jihadist groups in Syria are typically not entrenched in specific locations. Instead, the officer said, “they change extremely quickly”. The source added: “They are fast, flexible, utilise new weapons and tactics and are constantly changing allegiances.”
Israeli forces on the Syrian border have on occasion come under fire. It is thought that Hezbollah has sought to use the border as an additional point of conflict with Israel.