A member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad cell killed during a raid by Israeli security forces early Saturday had been on Shin Bet’s radar since shots were fired at troops in the West Bank earlier this week, Israeli television reported.
Saif Abu Libdeh, a 25-year-old resident of Tulkarm, on Tuesday fired more than 50 bullets at IDF troops patrolling along the so-called seam line, according to Channel 12 news. No soldiers were injured.
The network said Shin Bet has been on Abu Libdeh’s tail ever since and tracked him down during a rally on Friday in Jenin, where he appeared armed with an M-16 rifle.
“Soon you will hear about me,” he allegedly said. “I want to do something very big in Israel.”
The non-sourced report said security officials believe he intended to carry out a killing spree similar to the recent terrorist attacks in Beersheba, Hadera and Bnei Brak, in which 11 people were killed in total.
Two other suspects – Khalil Twalba, 24, from Jenin, and Saeb Abahara, 30, from the nearby village of Yamun – were killed during the shootout with Israeli forces, leaving four officers wounded, including one seriously.
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A fourth suspected member of the cell was arrested on Saturday in the Palestinian city of Shuweika near the West Bank city of Tulkarem.
The Israeli defense forces later released a video showing troops around the suspect’s home before attempting to flee. The military said an M-16 rifle and ammunition were seized during the raid.
Earlier today, the IDF released a video of troops operating in Shuweika near the West Bank city of Tulkarem, during the arrest of an alleged member of the PIJ cell on his way to an attack in Israel pic.twitter.com/8bLsgjWbfu
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Officials have said the cell was on its way to carry out an attack in Israel at the time of the arrest operation. Ahead of a meeting Saturday night with top Shin Bet officials, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said security forces averted a “ticking bomb”.
“We certainly assume there will be many more attempts and we are working right now to prevent them,” Bennett said.
In response to recent attacks, Israeli security forces have been put on increased alert, with reinforcements sent to the West Bank, the seam line and major cities. The escalation came when the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began – often a period of high tension in Israel and the West Bank.
Israeli officials have tried to ward off tensions ahead of Ramadan for fear that violence could snowball into the same type of unrest that rocked Israel in May 2021, when Hamas began firing rockets into Israel, triggering an 11- days of war with Gaza and days of riots between Arabs and Jews inside Israel.