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Netanyahu huddles with top security chiefs after day of terror violence

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered top defense officials on Thursday to step up anti-terror efforts in the West Bank, zeroing in the Palestinian city of Huwara where a gunman opened fire on an Israeli family Thursday evening.

Netanyahu’s meeting Thursday with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, Shin Bet security service director Ronen Bar, head of the IDF Central Command Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs, and the prime minister’s military secretary, came hours after an Israeli couple and their baby emerged unharmed from the shooting attack on their vehicle in Huwara earlier in the evening.

“We should not put up with the terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria,” Netanyahu told officials Thursday, using the biblical terms for the West Bank regions, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Netanyahu instructed the IDF and the Shin Bet “to increase defense and countermeasures against the terrorist elements, focusing immediately on the Huwara corridor,” the statement said.

On Thursday night, clashes between Israeli settlers and Palestinians broke out in the town. The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that the groups threw rocks at each other, leading to some light injuries as well as some damage to vehicles. Three Israelis were lightly injured in the clashes, Walla reported.

In one incident, a Palestinian suspect hurled a large cinderblock on an Israeli-owned vehicle, to which Israeli forces responded by opening fire, the military said Thursday night. The suspect sustained serious injuries, according to Hebrew-language media reports.

Dashcam footage shows the moment of a terror shooting in the West Bank town of Huwara, October 5, 2023. (Courtesy)

The IDF had earlier announced that it had ordered Palestinian storefronts to be shut in Huwara, “for the purpose of strengthening the security deployment in the area.”

Police and Border Police forces were set to be bolstered in the area, the military said.

In his sit-down with defense officials earlier, Netanyahu demanded that the timeline for a road to bypass Huwara — where a number of deadly Palestinian shooting attacks against Israelis have taken place this year — be halved, responding to settler officials who accuse his hardline coalition of failing to rein in terror.

Huwara south of Nablus, has long been a flashpoint in the northern West Bank due to a main thoroughfare, Route 60, that runs through the town and is used regularly by Israelis to travel to and from settlements in the West Bank.

Work to build a bypass road for settlers so they could avoid having to travel through the town has dragged on for years.

In February, two brothers were shot dead while in traffic in Huwara by a gunman who opened fire from close range. The town saw subsequent rioting by settler extremists.

Six months later, a father and son were gunned down while at a carwash in the town by a shooter who approached on foot. Several others, civilians and soldiers, have been hurt in separate shooting attacks in Huwara over the past 10 months.

Israeli soldiers are deployed at the scene where a Palestinian gunman opened fire at soldiers in the West Bank town of Huwara, March 25, 2023. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)

On Thursday, a family identified by officials as a man and a woman aged 25 and their one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, were driving on a congested road through Huwara when a gunman approached with a weapon, firing at the car several times as it sped away. There were no injuries.

The suspected assailant fled the scene and was shot dead by troops several hours later.

Netanyahu asked the IDF and security forces to present him with additional actions to combat terrorism and increase security for Israeli residents in the West Bank. A meeting on those suggestions will be held on Sunday, the PMO statement said.

The head of the Samaria Regional Council, Yossi Dagan, criticized the Netanyahu government Thursday following the shooting, lamenting that “the right-wing government has failed time after time to bring security to Israelis in the center of the country.”

“We will not accept a situation in which time after time [terrorists] target and attempt to murder Jews,” Dagan said in a statement. He demanded “an immediate return of checkpoints to the heart of Samaria” and a widespread military operation in Palestinian towns to root out terrorists.

“We expect results from the government. We expect our national honor to be restored, and we expect security,” he said.

A lawmaker from the far-right Religious Zionism party declared that he would open an office in the Palestinian town in response to the latest shooting.

Violence has surged across the West Bank over the past year and a half, with a rise in Palestinian shooting attacks against Israeli civilians and troops, near-nightly arrest raids by the military, and an uptick in revenge attacks by extremist Jewish settlers against Palestinians.

Earlier Thursday, two Hamas terrorists were killed by Israeli troops after opening fire at an Israeli motorist near the settlement of Avnei Hefetz. That incident came hours after five Border Police officers were wounded, including three seriously, during clashes with Palestinian gunmen in the nearby West Bank city of Tulkarem.

Following the clashes early Thursday, police bolstered their forces in the West Bank, a military source told The Times of Israel.

A man speaks to Israeli soldiers patrolling near the West Bank city of Tulkarm after clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen on October 5, 2023. (Photo by Zain JAAFAR / AFP)

Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank since the beginning of the year have left 27 civilians and three soldiers dead, and several others seriously wounded.

According to a tally by The Times of Israel, 193 West Bank and East Jerusalem Palestinians have been killed during the same period — the majority during clashes with security forces or while carrying out attacks, but some were uninvolved civilians and others were killed under unclear circumstances, including by armed Israeli settlers.

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