Israel deployed several hundred soldiers around the West Bank city of Chevron on Erev Shabbos after two Israelis were killed in separate attacks in the past 48 hours.
The army also began implementing wide-ranging closures around the city, including setting up checkpoints and restricting general movement.
Lt. Col Peter Lerner, a military spokesman, said the steps were the most “substantial” the Israeli army has taken on the ground since 2014, when three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed by two Palestinian militants.
On Friday afternoon, Palestinian gunmen opened fire on an Israeli family traveling on a main highway near the Israeli settlement of Otniel. The car crashed, killing a man and seriously injuring a woman. Two of the couple’s 10 children who were traveling in the car were lightly injured. Israeli media identified the victim as Rabbi Miki Mark, director of the Yeshiva in Otniel.
Lerner said that based on an initial military investigation, 20 rounds were fired at the family’s car by a passing vehicle, which immediately fled the scene. The Israeli army is searching the area for the perpetrators.
Earlier in the day, a Palestinian woman, later identified by Palestinian media as 27-year-old Sarah Tarayra from the village of Bani Naim, was fatally shot after attempting to attack Israeli soldiers at the Meoras Hamachpeilah.
On Thursday morning, a Palestinian youth fatally stabbed an Israeli teenager as she slept in her bed. The attacker, also from the village of Bani Naim, infiltrated Kiryat Arba. He was fatally shot at the scene. The victim, 13-year-old Hallel Yaffe Ariel, was a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen and a relative of Israel’s agricultural minister, Uri Ariel.
Lerner said that there have been more than 80 attacks or attempted attacks by Palestinians against Israeli civilians and military forces in the Chevron region. Last month, two Palestinians from the area opened fire in a food market in central Tel Aviv, killing four Israelis. Israel beefed up its forces after that attack as well.
“In light of this recent spike and in order to disrupt, prevent and foil further attacks, these steps have to be taken,” he said. The closures will apply to the entire Chevron district and movement will be limited to only humanitarian needs. There was no indication of how long the measures would be in place.
The closure will seriously impact freedom of movement for Palestinians, who are celebrating the last few days of Ramadan this weekend. Roughly 700,000 people live in that area.
In addition to the military actions, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s bureau released a statement saying that Israel will start to deduct money from the monthly tax revenue it transfers to the Palestinian Authority to reflect the amounts given to support the “terrorists and their families.”
Israel believes that the encouragement of terrorism by the Palestinian leadership – in the form of both incitement and payments to terrorists and their families – constitutes incentive for murder.
“To see Hallel’s room, to see the blood stains at her bedside and the books and clothing of a little girl, is shocking,” said Netanyahu after visiting the Ariel family in Kiryat Arba on Friday morning. “It reminds us once again of who stands before us, they want to uproot us but this will only deepen our roots. They will not get us out of here.”
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Ruth Eglash