Hamza Abu Al-Haija, one of three Palestinians killed during an IDF raid in Jenin
early Saturday, was a "ticking time bomb" who had been instructed by Hamas to commit a terror attack against settlers and IDF troops in the near future, a senior IDF official said Saturday.
An initial debriefing of the incident in Jenin showed that the IDF's Judea and Samaria Division had been closely tracing Al-Haija's movements in recent days, after a months' long manhunt for the wanted Hamas man.
The compound in which he was hiding was discovered Friday night inside the Jenin refugee camp. An elite Border Guard counter-terrorism unit, the Yamam, encircled the building, while a number of other IDF units secured the perimeter.
The joint operation included soldiers from the Kfir Brigade and Netzah Yehuda Battalion, a haredi unit, as well as troops from the Border Guard.
The house where the suspect was hiding (Photo: EPA) Scene of the operation (Photo: EPA)
The debriefing showed that the soldiers were greeted with gunfire from Al-Haija when they entered the compound. The soldiers asked the residents to exit the building, and shot warning rounds.
Meanwhile, the terrorist continued shooting at the Israeli soldiers. Within minutes dozens of armed Palestinians came to the location and opened fire on the IDF and Border Guard troops.
At this stage, the Yamam send an attack dog in the compound – it was shot to death by Al-Haija. After a short intermission, the Hamas man exited the house while firing at the Israeli forces. Two Yamam soldiers were lightly injured from the shooting but managed to return fire, killing the 22-year-old terrorist.
At the same time, the Israeli force was examining possibilities for extracting the wanted man, including destroying the compound he was hiding in.
"Around us was a battle between armed gunmen and perimeter security. This was not riot," emphasized a senior official in Central Command, "There could have been 15 Palestinian casualties and they all would have been killed legally and according to the rules of engagement."
The same source added that this was the reason the forces operated proportionally. He also said the two other men killed and all of the injured personnel were known terrorists.
The IDF, however, contradicted claims from Hamas that the Palestinian Authority helped the Israeli military with the operation. Security officials said it was only after the forces had surrounded the compound that Palestinian security services in the area were told to stay in their offices.
Bodies of the three Palestinians killed in the operation (Photo: AFP)
The source noted that "we are looking at the thwarting of a 'ticking time bomb' and not another arrest. The wanted man was directed by Hamas officials in Gaza, including those released in the (Gilad) Shalit deal, to commit a terror attack in the immediate future simultaneously on a settlement and on IDF forces."
The military sources added that despite the reputation of the Jenin refugee camp as a Fatah stronghold, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have built their own terror infrastructure in the camp.
The IDF's Judea and Samaria division is preparing for the funerals of the three militants killed in the operations and is expecting to manage disorderly conduct and riots in other West bank hotspots.
"In the long-term, we see an escalation in the extent of the actions we have been accustomed to over the last few years, but at a controllable level as most of the events are organized locally or by 'lone wolf' terrorists," said the military source.