IDF forces are in the midst of a massive manhunt for the terrorists responsible for Monday night's terror attack near Hebron, as one suspect is brought in for questioning, only to be released in a matter of hours.
According to Palestinian News Agency (SAFA), Mahmoud Ahmed Nimer from the nearby village of Idhna was arrested, but was released by security forces hours later. The IDF is in the process of removing the ring of barricades and checkpoints erected overnight around the village, where the terrorists involved in the attack allegedly fled.
However, many checkpoints are still operational and the door-to-door search of the village continues.
IDF soldiers at the scene of the attack (photo: Gil Yochanan)
Meanwhile, anti-terror operations in the West Bank are underway. Ariel police stopped a suspicious individual while on patrol and discovered a knife in his pocket.
The initial investigation discovered that the suspect was planning to stab a soldier at a West Bank junction. The man, a resident of Bita Al Fuka, was arrested and brought in for further investigation.
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz visited the scene of the incident Monday night, after holding Seder with soldiers from the 75th Armor Battalion in Gush Etzion. He received a briefing on the operations of the forces and the details of the attack by the regional commanders.
The IDF division responsible for the area is still looking into the terror attack. Currently, investigators estimate that the attack was premeditated and included a successful route for escape.
The initial investigation determined that at least one terrorist approached the road on foot, then opened fire from mere meters away on the first vehicle that passed by. After the gunfire, the attacker ran to another point, from which he fired on several other Israeli vehicles before escaping.
IDF forces say it's too early to reject the possibility that there was more than one terrorist behind the attack.
For the time being, the IDF checkpoints around Idhna continue to operate as "breathing" roadblocks, which allow Palestinians access in and out of the village after a brief search.
Route 35 re-opened Tuesday night for Israeli traffic, though the increased IDF presence along the roadway is expected to persist in the following days.
The IDF's Judea and Samaria Division have been reinforced for the operations by scores of fighters from the military's infantry commander course. They arrived in Hebron Monday night, before the attack, to secure the routine prayer services at the Cave of the Patriarchs, which are expected to draw a crowd in the thousands.
The original assessment of the attack determined it was a "lone wolf" incident – even if a number of terrorists were involved – and not an organized activity operating as part of the local terrorist infrastructure. Such events are difficult for security services to thwart, as they are less likely to be well-organized.
The Hebron area has a reputation for volatility over the past decade because of the proximity of Palestinian villages to Route 35, which Israelis use to reach settlements on Mount Hebron. But over the past year, the area achieved a relative calm.
Despite the terror attack, the IDF and the Palestinian security services are continuing to coordinate and cooperate as usual.
Yoav Zitun, Elior Levy, and Noam 'Dabul' Dvir contributed to this report.