Two Palestinian terrorists were killed in a fire exchange with Israeli forces during an extensive raid on the northern West Bank city of Jenin as part of a wider crackdown on Islamist terrorist activity.
An Israeli commando was lightly wounded in the firefight and evacuated by helicopter to Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa for treatment.
Security forces are still in the city and closing in on a compound of several buildings where terrorist operatives are hiding.
Additional forces in the area were covering for them with gunfire against additional belligerents. The operation started overnight Thursday and continued throughout the morning hours with the siege on the building.
Videos circulated online showed smoke rising from the center of Jenin as gunfire echoed in the background. Others appeared to show Israeli soldiers and Palestinian gunmen moving through the narrow streets.
The raid came as part of a wider operation across the northern West Bank involving hundreds of Israeli troops and is aimed at arresting Palestinian militants suspected of planning terrorist attacks, as well as those suspected of aiding and abetting the terrorist behind the deadly shooting spree in Bnei Brak.
The Jenin refugee camp was the scene of one of the deadliest battles of the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising. In April 2002, Israeli forces battled Palestinian militants in the camp, leading to the deaths of 23 Israeli soldiers and more than 50 Palestinians.
The raid came two days after a 27-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank village of Yabad, near Jenin, methodically gunned down five people in Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv, part of a spate of terror attacks in recent days that have left a total of 11 Israelis dead.
On Sunday night, a shooting attack by two Islamic State sympathizers in the northern city of Hadera killed two police officers. Last week, a combined car-ramming and stabbing attack in the southern city of Be'er Sheva — also by an attacker inspired by IS — killed four. The two attacks claimed by IS were carried out by Arab citizens of Israel.
On Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told Israelis who have a license for a firearm, "this is the time to carry a weapon," amid the ongoing terror wave.
At the opening of a meeting of the high-level State Security Cabinet, Bennett announced the establishment of a new Border Police brigade to help tackle the emerging terror threat. He then said he had ordered the defense forces to "look into anyone who ever had anything to do with the Islamic State."
The premier issued the call in a video statement from his home in Ra'anana where he is quarantined due to coronavirus infection.
Ministers discussed whether to freeze lifting some restrictions on Palestinians ahead of Ramadan but ultimately decided against the move. They also floated the idea of enacting a lockdown, which was soundly rejected by defense officials.
A government source has told Ynet that the panel decided to beef up police and Shin Bet presence and operations nationwide.