Chief of Military Staff Aviv Kochavi on Sunday said the early morning raid on Hamas operatives in the West Bank, foiled planned terror attacks in major Israeli cities.
In an operation conducted by troops in the predawn hours, to arrested terror suspects and target a Hamas terror cell, at least five Palestinians were reported dead, some 20 arrested and two Israeli servicemen were wounded.
This was the deadliest operation conducted by the military since the end of the May 2021 fighting against Hamas and other Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip.
"The militants who were arrested in the operation, could have carried out attacks on Jerusalem, Netanya, Tel Aviv or elsewhere," Kochavi said.
"This is a considerable achievement made possible by the cooperation of the IDF with the Shib Bet and the police anti-terror unit. Such raids are conducted dozens of times each week and provide Israel with the security it requires in the West Bank and beyond."
Kochavi spoke after meeting with senior IDF officers in the West Bank command after reports emerged that the two IDF soldiers were the victims of friendly fire. "As we do after each operation, we will investigate this one and learn from it," the military chief said.
"The soldiers acted bravely and professionally," Kochavi said. "I send the wounded my best wishes for a speedy recovery. We will continue to operate on all fronts to ensure the security of Israelis," he said.
The wave of arrests in five different locations targeted a Hamas cell that Israeli security forces had been tracking for several days, the military said.
At least three gunmen, all members of terror groups, were killed during the armed clashes with IDF soldiers in the village of Biddo near Ramallah, according to Palestinian media reports.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement that Israeli security forces in the West Bank operated against Hamas operatives "that were about to execute terror attacks in the very immediate future."
He said that the soldiers in the filed "acted as expected of them" and said his government gave them full support.
Palestinians also reportedly opened fire on IDF soldiers in Burqin, west of Ramallah, where Israeli security forces were surrounding a house during the arrest operations.
Several Palestinians were reportedly wounded in the clashes.
Arrests were also reported in the town of Beit Fajjar, south of Bethlehem, and in Hebron.
Clashes and two injuries were reported in Beit 'Anan, a Palestinian village north of Jerusalem.
An IDF spokesperson said that the arrest raids were conducted primarily by the military's elite Duvdevan counter-terrorism unit and by the Israel Police and Border Police counter-terrorism units, along with the Shin Bet security service.
Earlier on Saturday night, Palestinians reportedly fired at the Jlama checkpoint near Jenin to protest arrests taking place in the city. Israel recently reopened the Jalama crossing after the recapture of six Palestinians who escaped from nearby Gilboa prison earlier this month.
On Friday, Mohammad Ali Khabisa, 28, was killed during clashes with IDF soldiers near Beita, south of Nablus in the West Bank.
First published: 19:22, 09.26.21