Israel Defence Forces have arrested dozens of Hamas militants in the West Bank during a manhunt for a terror cell behind the murders of two IDF soldiers in Givat Asaf and newborn baby in Ofra in recent terror attacks.
Two armed Palestinians in Hebron were among those arrested in a preemptive operation by undercover troops following intelligence.
An IDF spokesperson confirmed the operation inside Palestinian territories where the army had bolstered troops and closed roads to Ramallah amidst concern over copycat attacks.
Israeli troops also utilised crowd dispersal measures when hundreds of Palestinians clashed with forces.
“There’s a sense of an increase in the level of terrorism,” he explained. “It makes our fighters more alert, while our offensive action causes the Palestinians to think twice before allowing firearms in their homes.”
And Palestinian Authority officials were reported to have identified Jasser Barghouti, uncle of Salah Barghouti killed by counter-terrorism officers while attempting to escape the Ofra attack, as the architect behind the cell responsible for both attacks.
Barghouti was sentenced to nine life terms but released in 2011 as part of a prisoner exchange for IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
Among the most dangerous prisoners in the exchange, security forces believe Barghouti became involved with Hamas’ West Bank “headquarters” after deportation to the Gaza Strip.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had described the Ofra attack as “monstrous” and vowed to “hunt down” those responsible.
“We will deal with them to the fullest extent of the law and settle accounts with them,” he said.
“We will not rest until we find these murderous criminals and bring them to justice.”
Netanyahu warned Hamas there would be no ceasefire in Gaza while attacks continued.
IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot added that the battle against terror was ongoing and GOC Central Command Maj. Gen. Nadav Padan undertook to exact a heavy price in hunting down the terrorists who would not be able to hide.
“In the wake of the attack, we are bolstering our troops, protecting roads and settlements, and expanding our efforts to prevent terror,” he noted.
Shira and Amichai Ish-Ran’s died in the Ofra attack, they told reporters during a press conference at Sha’arei Tzedek Medical Center in Jerusalem last Sunday that terrorists would not break Israeli spirits whilst thanking medical staff for battling to save their son’s life.
“During the three days our baby lived, he united us, secular, religious, ultra-Orthodox, right and left wing, who came to support us. I’m proud to be part of this nation,” said Amichai.
“Our enemies can shoot at us, stab us, run over us, and hurl stones at us. They can murder us and our children, but they cannot break us. We won’t let them.”
Shira, who was 30 weeks pregnant, had an emergency Caesarean section after being seriously injured.
She added, “I lost a lot of blood and received many blood donations. The blood of the people of Israel is flowing through my veins right now.
“I feel that the Jewish nation is supporting me and strengthening me in every step of the way.”
Recalling the terrifying attack, she said, “The paramedic sitting next to me was the one who prevented me from losing consciousness on the way to the hospital. As Amichai said, we remember everything that happened. I was conscious up to the moment I went into surgery.”
Doctor Alon Schwartz, senior surgeon at the medical Center, confirmed that Shira was no longer in a life-threatening danger but her rehabilitation process would be long.
“She was mainly wounded in her lower limbs, which will require a lot of operations and physical therapy,” he explained.
Schwartz added that Shira had a positive attitude and could have children in the future.
The couple were reunited two days after the atrocity and saw their son at the hospital’s ICU just hours before he tragically passed away.
Five other people were wounded in the drive-by terror attack, which took place as they were taking part in a candle-lighting ceremony in memory of a car accident victim at a bus station near the Ofra junction.
Border police nearby fired towards the vehicle, which sped away.
Corporal Yosef Cohen, 19 from Beit Shemesh, and Sergeant Yovel Moryosef, 20 from Ashkelon, served in the Kfir Brigade died in the Givat Asaf attack.
Netanel Felber remains in critical condition at Hadassah Medical Centre in Jerusalem.
In another incident, two Border Police officers were hurt in a stabbing incident in Jerusalem’s Old City when a terrorist tried to stab a man walking in the direction of Damascus Gate.
The attacker also tried to stab the officers, one shot and killed the 26-year-old terrorist, a West Bank resident.
Both incidents came hours after Barghouti was killed by counterterrorism police, who also killed suspected terrorist Omar Hassan al-Awawdeh in a car-ramming attack near Hebron.
And in a second attack during an ICA operation in Al-Jiftlik, a Palestinian terrorist was wounded after accelerating towards in a vehicle in the Jordan Rift Valley.
The wave of attacks began with the murders of Kim Levengrond Yehezkel and Ziv Hagbi Barkan in the Barkan industrial area two months ago.
IDF officers tracked down and killedAshraf Na’alwa, who murdered Kim Levengrond Yehezkel and Ziv Hagbi at the Barkan Industrial area two months ago,in Nablus in the midst of last weeks’ atrocities.
Na’alwa was armed and in hiding when found after the two-month manhunt.
Five Israelis have died and 22 wounded during 15 attacks in the West Bank and Jerusalem’s Old City during this period.