Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that Israel was "in the midst of a terror wave that is encouraged, directed and funded by Iran and its proxies," following a fatal drive-by shooting attack that left an Israeli woman dead near the West Bank city of Hebron.
"We are working around the clock to apprehend the murderers and those attempting to kill Israeli citizens," Netanyahu said from the scene of the attack. "We have captured all of them," he further declared, overlooking the terrorist who killed Meir Tamari in the settlement of Hermesh in late May.
The prime minister added, "We will also capture the terrorists responsible for today's attack, but it's important to understand that part of this wave of terror comes from external instigation." Netanyahu further stated, "We are employing both offensive and defensive measures to deal with the killers and their senders, both near and far."
He praised the soldiers and commanders operating in the field and emphasized that "we all need to support them."
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who arrived at the scene with Netanyahu, said, "On behalf of Israel's defense establishment, I would like to send my sincere condolences to the families of those who were murdered [in the terror attack that took place today]. It is important to understand the significant change that is taking place on the ground - it is related to Iranian funding, and to the proliferation of weapons under the Iranian directive. Iran seeks every means to harm the citizens of Israel.
We will reach the terrorists, and we will take additional action in order to ensure the security of Israel's citizens, while exacting a price from those responsible for any harm."
Earlier, IDF Central Command chief Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox said on Monday that Israel is facing a major terror wave, the likes of which it hasn't seen in a long time.
"We are in a terror wave unlike anything we've seen in a long time," Fox told reporters at the military’s Judea Regional Brigade base near Hebron. "The IDF and security forces are operating daily to thwart acts of terror in villages, towns and refugee camps.
"Most of the time, we succeed; however, today and this week have been challenging, and we were unsuccessful. We will pursue the enemies relentlessly, from Huwara, Hebron and everywhere else, and hold them accountable," he added, referring to an Israeli father and son who were gunned down and killed at a car wash in the Palestinian town of Huwara over the weekend.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Netanyahu brought forward the meeting of the Security Cabinet, which was already rescheduled for this upcoming Sunday, and will be held on the coming Wednesday due to concerns about additional terrorist attacks.
The Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, the military wing of Fatah, claimed responsibility for Monday's attack in the Hebron Hills in which Batsheva Nigri, 40, was killed in front of her daughter, and Aryeh Gottlieb, 39, who was driving them, was seriously wounded.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi arrived at the scene of the attack to conduct a preliminary investigation and situational assessment, along with Shin Bet Director Ronen Bar, Fox and Judea and Samaria Division Commander Brig. Gen. Avi Bluth.
Maj. Gen. Fox further said that an initial investigation into the shooting revealed that soldiers at a nearby guard post did not recognize the unfolding attack and consequently failed to respond.
"They didn't have enough time to assess the situation on the ground. We'll learn from this, as we're still in the early stages of the investigation. At first glance, it doesn't seem like there was an issue with the soldiers," he said.
Regarding the recent escalation, Fox added, "The current situation is the responsibility of the terror organizations, primarily Hamas and Islamic Jihad. No one is restricting our operations or the means we use. We've thwarted many attacks in the past year, both in the Hebron area and in the northern West Bank."
In unusual move, Fatah military-wing claims attack
The Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades released a statement declaring that the attack was a "natural response to the crimes and arrogance of the occupation", coinciding with the anniversary of the 1969 Al-Aqsa Mosque fire. "In honoring our martyrs' souls, we see resistance as a strategic choice," the statement read.
In recent years, the group hasn't been as active as its other Palestinian counterparts, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, in recent months, and is coping with the loss of the Lion’s Den — an offshoot of the Al-Aqsa Brigades which suffered heavy casualties during the IDF’s recent operations in Nablus.
This organization acts as the military wing of the Fatah movement, led by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. However, Fatah decided in 2005 to move away from armed struggle, favoring negotiation and diplomacy. Today, there are members within Fatah who dissent from Abu Mazen's approach toward Israel and the world, like his deputy, Mahmoud Al-Aloul, who advocates for violent resistance.
Though Abbas opposes their actions, the Palestinian leader doesn't sideline them; they continue to be present, armed, and dispersed throughout the Authority's territories.
Batsheva Nigri, a mother of three from Beit Hagai, was killed while hitchhiking. She was fatally shot in front of her 12-year-old daughter, who was unharmed, and alongside the car's driver, Aryeh Gottlieb, who was driving them and was severely wounded. She worked as a preschool teacher in the settlement of Efrat where her family lives.
"Batsheva was a golden woman, full of giving. She warmly adopted foster children and gave them stable ground and a warm home. She was a beloved kindergarten teacher - truly God takes the best," a relative of Nigri told Ynet.
"This is a very big loss; A difficult day of mourning," a family friend said.
IDF forces began searching for suspects around the scene of the incident, which took place at a point between the town of Yatta and the southern industrial area of Hebron, and near the headquarters of the Yehuda Brigade. The hunt is focused on the area of the towns of Bnei Naim, east of the scene of the attack, and Beita, south of the scene. The fear is that the terrorists fled toward Yatta in Hebron.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was visiting the Tel Hashomer recruitment center at the time of the attack, was updated on the details of the attack.
First published: 19:59, 08.21.23