Facing a growing terror threat: Gan Ner residents worry about another October 7

The recent escalation has forced residents of Gan Ner and their neighbors to alter their daily routines drastically, building up the intense feeling of close danger just around the corner.

By Sveta Listratov, TPS

A new front for Palestinian terror is opening up in Israel’s Gilboa region as residents reveal growing levels of attacks from Jenin and the northern areas of the Palestinian Authority.

“This is a national problem, not just our private problem. We won’t allow turning our homes in Gan Ner into another otef community, this time around Jenin,” Gidi Ovadia, deputy chairman of the Gan Ner community council, told The Press Service of Israel.

Otef refers to the Gaza border region where Hamas attacked more than 20 Israeli communities on October 7.

“It is becoming more intense. This cannot be accepted as normal,” Ovadia said.

Gan Ner, a community of approximately 700 families, sits on the slopes of Mount Gilboa. As one drives along Gan Ner’s outlying roads, a picturesque pastoral valley scene unfolds until concrete barricades at the side of the road abruptly come into view.

On the other side of the barricades lie greenhouses in the adjacent Palestinian Authority.

Map by TPS-IL

These barriers protect a Gan Ner kindergarten where more than a dozen children are currently inside playing. The outer wall of the small kindergarten building bears holes resembling bullet marks, though the kindergarten owner is uncertain of their origin.

“A week ago, there was a very tense situation here. We heard a burst of gunfire, and I immediately brought the children inside until the security checked and clarified what was happening. We stayed indoors. It’s terribly frightening, and it’s very sad that this is the situation,” Eti, the kindergarten owner, told TPS-IL.

After frequent shooting incidents from the Jenin area targeting Gan Ner and the nearby community of Ram On, the Gilboa Regional Council erected concrete walls along the exposed firing lines.

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In the past two weeks, several concrete walls were placed in Gan Ner. Within a week of this reporter’s visit, Eti’s kindergarten was fully barricaded.

Gunfire From the Greenhouses

Gidi Ovadia, who is also a retired Deputy Chief, and former commander of the Jenin sector in the Border Police, explained to TPS-IL the situation.

“We see greenhouses being built near the border fence on the other side, tents being set up just 400-500 meters from the fence, and they are not being removed, although that’s where the fire definitely comes from,” he said, pointing to a cluster of greenhouses visible from the point of the road in front of the kindergarten.

Gan Ner has been the target of gunfire originating from the Palestinian Authority even before October 7. But since that date, the live fire attacks have become more frequent.

“They try everything. At first, it was stones on the fence. Once they saw there was no appropriate response, they moved on to more severe actions. Eventually, it turns into gunfire, and then explosive devices on the fence,” Ovadia said.

The attacks even escalated to rockets. In June 2023, terrorists in Jenin fired a rocket towards the Gilboa region. The rocket exploded in the sky above the Palestinian Authority not far from Gan Ner.

No damage was caused, but the attack marked the first Palestinian rocket launch from Jenin.

Residents and the regional council complained to government officials. But in the beginning of June, they were stunned to learn that the army instead authorized the reopening of the Jalamah border crossing situated right in front of Gan Ner’s entrance.

The crossing, which was closed after the October 7 attacks, is now used by Israeli-Arab citizens to enter the Palestinian Authority on weekends for shopping and business.

Because the Jalamah checkpoint connects with a part of Samaria designated as Area A, where the Palestinian Authority has both security and administrative jurisdiction, Israeli Jews are not allowed to use the crossing.

In protest against the checkpoint’s reopening, residents of Gan Ner, Ta’anakh, and Magen Shaul, closed the roads near the checkpoint, arguing that the money left by the Israeli visitors “fuels” Hamas and other terror cells in northern Samaria.

“We won’t allow financial support for them while they are shooting at our homes,” the protestors announced. But the Israeli-Arab traffic continues. Since October 7, approximately 4,150 Palestinian terror suspects have been arrested in counterterror raids throughout Judea and Samaria. Of that number, over 40% are affiliated with Hamas, according to Israeli figures.

The recent escalation has forced residents of Gan Ner and their neighbors to alter their daily routines drastically, building up the intense feeling of close danger just around the corner.

“I myself walk around all day with a gun and three magazines on me. Just visiting a gun shop in nearby town Afula, you can see the crazy lines outside the store; people are arming themselves,” Ovadia said.

“We do not want to reach the situation of the South and the North of Israel. You cannot deal with this issue delicately. Those on the other side of the fence have a clear objective in their actions. We cannot afford to let what happened in the south or in the north happen to us as well.”

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