Israel strikes Iran-backed terrorists in ongoing effort to stop new war front in West Bank
JERUSALEM – Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on Wednesday launched a raid on the city of Jenin and its refugee camp – two strongholds of Palestinian terrorist activity – in the West Bank.
The IDF operation in the West Bank, known by Israelis by its biblical name Judea and Samaria, raises questions about the opening of a third front in Israel’s response to Hamas’ multipronged attack against the Jewish state on Oct. 7, resulting in the massacre of 1,400 people in southern Israel.
The IDF said in a statement that its counterterrorism forces ‘exchanged fire with armed terrorists, over ten terrorists were killed, and over 20 wanted suspects were apprehended, among them Nur and Minur Salma, Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists.’ The U.S. has designated the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad a foreign terrorist organization.
The fighting comes at a time when the Biden administration is cautioning Israeli actions in the West Bank, especially when it comes to violence from a small group of extremist settlers who have been involved in armed confrontations with Palestinian villagers in the area.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a press conference in India on Friday, that the administration had been working for a two-state solution since coming into office and that included, ‘pushing back on the expansion of settlements, on illegal outposts, on demolitions of homes, on evictions of Palestinians, on the status quo for the holy sites, on violence being perpetrated by extremists in the West Bank.’
The Associated Press reported that President Biden said in late October the attacks by ‘extremist settlers’ amounted to ‘pouring gasoline’ on the already burning fires in the Middle East since the Hamas attack. The administration refers to Jewish residents who live in the disputed West Bank territory as settlers.
Following Thursday’s raid, the IDF added that ‘Two M-16 rifles, a ‘Carlo’ gun, three handguns, ammunition, and military equipment were seized.’
The Palestinian-manufactured ‘Carlo’ gun has its origins in the 2016 terrorism wave against Israelis. The weapon is a watered-down version of the Carl Gustav submachine gun – hence its name, the ‘Carlo’ gun.
‘The initiative is always ours to prevent a third front. So the gangs of Hamas and the PIJ know we are in full force not only in Gaza and in the north but also in the West Bank,’ Yigal Carmon, a former counterterrorism adviser to two Israeli Prime Ministers, told Fox News Digital.
Israel has exchanged fire with the Lebanese terrorist movement Hezbollah on its northern border over the last week. Hezbollah is the Islamic Republic of Iran’s main strategic partner in the Middle East and has over 150,000 missiles aimed at Israel. The Jewish state faces terrorist war fronts from Hamas, the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the Lions’ Den in the West Bank and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Carmon said preventive counterterrorism operations are deterrence against Iran-backed groups in the West Bank to ensure they do not think ‘this is their time or hour’ to widen the conflict.
Carmon, a former colonel in Israel’s military intelligence, said the IDF operation in Jenin ‘also reveals that they have weapons in unimaginable quantities which can be seen in their ceremonies.’
The IDF said it ‘located and destroyed an underground tunnel shaft containing ready-to-use explosive devices. During searches in a building, additional weapons were found, as well as ammunition and military equipment.’ According to the IDF statement, ‘IDF soldiers neutralized a terrorist who fired at them and confiscated his M-16 rifle and cartridges. In addition, they destroyed a vehicle containing weapons…They also confiscated two M-4 carbines and a handgun.’
Carmon, who is the president and founder of the Middle East Media Research Institute, said that the jihadis conduct marches in Jenin – like in Gaza – and use the population as their human shield.
Fox News Digital reported in October that Carmon predicted the war between Israel and Hamas in his prescient analysis on Aug. 31.
The IDF used numerous drone attacks to knock out the terrorists during the operation, a relatively new use of IDF air power in the West Bank that started during the summer. ‘Following an identification by IDF drones, the IDF engaged and killed an armed terrorist cell which endangered the soldiers in the area. Several terrorists were killed as a result of the strike,’ the IDF said.
Joe Truzman, a research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Long War Journal, concurred with Carmon’s analysis that a third front has not opened against Israel. He told Fox News Digital ‘I don’t see multiple cities all erupting at once but that can all change due to Gaza.’
Truzman said what is new is the ‘increased use of air strikes against armed terrorists’ in the West Bank in comparison to the start of the war on Oct. 7. He has observed a small uptick in IDF drone attacks targeting terrorists in the West Bank.
The specialist on Iranian-linked terrorist groups surrounding Israel added that ‘As long as the war drags on I can see Hamas activate terrorist cells in the West Bank’ to attack Jewish residents and the IDF.
Truzman continued that as Hamas retreats and the IDF decimates its terrorists, Hamas’ aim would be to ‘relieve pressure’ on their jihadi forces by unleashing terrorist cells against Jews and the IDF in the West Bank.
The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry said on Thursday that 14 people were killed during the IDF raid, and 20 people were injured.
The Jerusalem Post reported that since the start of the war, Israel has arrested over 900 suspects in the West Bank who are affiliated with Hamas. The Israeli paper said the IDF dropped leaflets in Jenin, stating ‘the IDF remains here and will return again and again until terrorism is completely eradicated. Stay away from terrorism, live in peace.’
The news outlet Axios reported that the Biden administration permitted U.S. defense manufacturers to sell Israel M16 rifles in exchange for the promise that the weapons would not be provided to Jewish residents who live in the West Bank.
Fox News Digital sent press queries to the U.S. State Department and the Palestinian Authority.
THE Associated Press contributed to this report.