Sources in the IDF lauded Saturday the Palestinian security establishment for its conduct following the shooting ambush Thursday, in which Meir Avshalom Hai was killed, calling it "determined and impressive."
The sources noted that despite the PA forces' commendable conduct, the IDF had no choice but to independently act on apprehending the three persons responsible for the attack. All three were killed by the IDF during military activity in Nablus Saturday morning.
IDF rejected Palestinian claims according to which there was no reason to kill the three.
The sources further noted that some 120 suspects have been detained by the Palestinian security establishment since the attack on Thursday, in an attempt to apprehend the responsible terrorist cell. The fourth suspect reportedly turned himself in to the authorities prior to the Saturday military operation.
"They acted with determination, but alongside that we have the responsibility to act against whoever executed the attack and settle the score with them," said a senior officer with the Central Command.
The defense establishment is investigating why the three, who are considered fairly mature, decided to execute the attack themselves, and why they acted so shortly after being released from the Israeli prison. A possible tie to Hezbollah was also being investigated.
IDF activity in Nablus. forces were not too aggressive (Photo: AFP)
The military activity became possible with the help of Shin Bet intelligence. It began at 3 am Saturday and was carried out under the command of Shomron Brigade Commander Colonel Itzik Bar, who dispatched forces from the Duvdevan Unit and Kfir Brigade's Nachshon Battalion to all three locations where the suspects were reportedly hiding.
"It was important to act correspondingly, because we believed there was a connection between all three suspects," explained the senior officer.
The fact that the terrorists are not young, said the officer, indicated they have an extensive background in terrorist activities, as well as experience and knowledge. "They acted in order to cover their tracks. The risk level in this operation was high because the three had access to weapons and would not hesitate to use them," he said.
The military activity at the first two locations, where Raghsan Abu Sharah and Raed a-Sarkaji lived, was fairly short. The two refused to leave their houses, and continued hiding inside even after IDF forces used different methods including shots in the air in order to make the two surrender. Abu Sharah sent his wife out to face the soldiers, but did not agree to step out himself.
"There are clear directives in these situations," explained the senior officer, "after they refused to leave their houses and surrender, we entered. They continued hiding and endangering our soldiers, which made the shooting imperative."
In the third location, where Anan Sabah was staying, the activity lasted a few hours, and included the firing of an antitank missile toward the house, in an attempt to force the suspect out.
"When we approached (to Anan Sabah), he Yelled 'Allahu Akbar' a few times and refused to step out. There were also weapons in the house. The fact that no soldier was injured in the incident shows that we did not act too aggressively and that everything was done properly despite the extremely complex and dangerous mission," he said.
Colonel Itzik Bar, which commanded the activity, also headed a 2004 operation, in which Abu Sharah's brother, who was the former leader of the Tanzim in Nablus, was killed.