Manhunt on for fourth terrorist who managed to escape.
By Benjamin Kerstein, The Algemeiner
Details of Tuesday’s IDF operation that killed three members of a terrorist cell based in the West Bank city of Nablus have emerged in the Israeli media, giving the picture of a swift but complex military action carried out by elite forces.
The mission took place in four stages, initiated after the Shin Bet security service and the IDF began to track the terror cell and established the identities of its members, Israeli news site Walla reported.
In the first stage, it was assessed that the terrorists were armed and would fire on any forces that attempted to arrest them. It was decided to use a team from Israel’s elite National Counter Terror Unit (Yamam in Hebrew) to lead the operation.
The second phase began when the Shin Bet acquired accurate intelligence as to the terrorists’ whereabouts in Nablus, and reinforcements were dispatched to back up the Yamam unit. The Yamam soldiers then identified the terrorists’ vehicle and verified that the targets they sought were inside. At that point, the soldiers readied themselves for combat.
In the final stage, backup forces in a van blocked the terrorists’ car, letting the Yamam units move in. It is not clear if the terrorists’ succeeded in opening fire, but the soldiers at the scene responded with massive gunfire, killing the men. Palestinian reports indicate that around 80 rounds were fired.
The forces then evacuated the area before clashes with local Palestinians could break out.
Israeli public broadcaster Kan reported Tuesday that thousands attended a funeral for the three men in Nablus, which heard calls for revenge and chants in praise of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Calls were also seen in the Palestinian media for a “day of rage” in Ramallah and a general strike; while the Fatah movement, which rules the Palestinian Authority, declared two days of mourning.
A fourth member of the cell succeeded in escaping and is currently at large, according to Kan. Security forces are now engaged in a manhunt for the terrorist.
In addition, shortly after the operation, an Israeli taxi driver entered Nablus by mistake and was attacked by stone-throwers who called to burn his car. The driver escaped unhurt.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett praised the forces involved in the operation, saying, “Our forces have once again proved today that there is no immunity for terrorists. Whoever hurts us, will be hurt.”
Defense Minister Benny Gantz said he had recently ordered an increase in counterterrorism actions against shooting attacks.
“We will continue with proactive operations,” Gantz added. “We will interdict and lay our hands on anyone who tries to harm human life.”