The IDF arrested dozens of Hamas members in the West Bank over the weekend in what the army said was a preemptive action in an effort to prevent more attacks, as security forces continued the manhunt for a cell believed to be behind both the shooting in Givat Asaf, which killed two IDF soldiers, and the shooting near Ofra, which claimed the life of a baby born prematurely after his mother was shot.
Troops from the Golani Brigade's 13th Battalion arrested two armed Palestinian men on the night between Friday and Saturday near the Jewish settlement in Hebron, some 300 meters from the Cave of the Patriarchs. One was armed with an M-16 assault rifle loaded with a full magazine, set on automatic with the safety on. The other had an Uzi submachine gun. The two were arrested and taken in for questioning.
The troops were patrolling Hebron near the Jewish settlement and holding random searches following intelligence about weapons in the Palestinian Authority that could be used for terrorism.
The Golani troops, along with reinforcements from the Nahal Brigade, have arrested dozens of Hamas members over the past few days as part of a preemptive action against the Gazan organization's terror infrastructure in Hebron.
Security forces are most worried, however, by local terror cells that include two to three members, some without any past record of security offenses, who can easily get weapons and use them to carry out attacks in their area.
"With this weapon they shoot at weddings today, but tomorrow they'll sell it, and the next day they'll use it to carry out a shooting attack," a Golani officer told Ynet. "There's a sense of an increase in the level of terrorism. It makes our fighters more alert, while our offensive action causes the Palestinians to think twice before allowing firearms in their homes."
On Saturday night, a force of undercover troops arrested a Palestinian man called Mohammad Barghouti in the village of Kobar near Ramallah as part of the search for the shooters who killed two IDF soldiers in Givat Asaf on Thursday.
Kobar is the home of two terrorists, Salah Barghouti and Wa'ad Barghouti, who are suspected of carrying out the drive-by shooting that claimed the life of an unborn Israeli baby, Amiad Israel Eish-Ran, who had to be delivered prematurely after his mother was wounded in an attack at the Ofra Junction.
Salah Barghouti, 29, was killed while attempting to harm Israeli forces as he sought to escape from an arrest raid on Wednesday, the Shin Bet said. Several additional Palestinian suspects were arrested in the villages of Surda and Silwad.
Netanel Felber, who was wounded in the Givat Asaf shooting, remains in serious condition and is fighting for his life at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem's Ein Karem. The condition of Shira Sabag, a civilian who was seriously wounded in the same attack, was improving.
Meanwhile, an attacker suspected of seriously wounding IDF soldier from the Netzah Yehuda Battalion at a military post near Beit El turned himself in on Saturday.
The Palestinian attacker struck soldier Naveh Rotem, 21, in the head with a rock and stabbed him with a knife. Rotem's conditioned has since stabilized and improved, and he is now in moderate condition.
Over the past two months, there have been 15 attacks in the West Bank and in Jerusalem's Old City, which left five people dead and 22 others wounded. The wave of attacks began with the shooting at the Barkan industrial area, which claimed the lives of Kim Levengrond Yehezkel and Ziv Hagbi.
Yoav Zitun, Elior Levy and the Associated Press contributed to this report.