By Batya Jerenberg WorldIsraelNews.com
Five Palestinian terrorists were eliminated in a rare Jericho-area raid Sunday night as IDF forces went to arrest a terror cell responsible for an attempted attack late last month on a nearby restaurant.
The Lions of the Valley troops, a mixed-gender battalion, entered the Aqabat Jabr refugee camp just a few kilometers southwest of the major Palestinian city after receiving information that the two main suspects were hiding in an apartment there.
Palestinian gunmen started shooting at the soldiers, and a firefight ensued. Among those killed were the Hamas terrorist who entered the eatery last month in order to commit a massacre. They fled towards Jericho when their guns jammed after only firing a single shot, causing no injuries.
The bodies were reportedly taken by the IDF instead of being left on site.
Several more terrorists were injured during the exchange of fire, and seven were taken into custody, the IDF said. According to Palestinian sources, one of those arrested was a senior Hamas official.
An army drone crashed into the area during the raid, but the IDF said there was no “no concern” about any possible information the Palestinians could glean from it.
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The Palestinians claimed that their forces had downed it and uploaded to social media a short clip of bricks being thrown at the small device and breaking it.
There were no injuries to the IDF forces.
The terror cell only recently announced its formation, calling itself the “Aqabat Jabr Battalion.” It was affiliated with the al-Qassam Brigades of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, although Jericho is nominally under the control of the Palestinian Authority.
Jericho has been very quiet in comparison to terrorism hotbeds such as Jenin and Nablus (Shechem), and the IDF rarely made arrest raids there over its almost-yearlong “Break the Wave” counterterrorism operation in Judea and Samaria. After the botched attack on the restaurant at the Almog Junction nine days ago, the IDF set up checkpoints at the outskirts of the city, searching vehicles going in and out.
This was the second attempt to apprehend the perpetrators. On Saturday, the IDF entered Aqabat Jabr but was unsuccessful in reaching its goal, although several other suspects were arrested.
Both Hamas and its rival Fatah, the main faction supporting the Palestinian Authority, condemned the Sunday night raid, which they described as a “crime” and a “massacre.”
“Our people and their resistance will not delay in responding to this crime,” declared Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem.
Fatah forces in the city called for a five-day national strike in response, and schools and stores throughout Judea and Samaria were closed Monday morning.
Public Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir praised the operation Monday, saying, “Anyone who tries to harm the citizens of Israel knows that he will pay a heavy price for his activities and our security forces will reach him wherever he hides. The Israeli government will wage a stubborn and uncompromising war against terrorism, and with God’s help we will bring security to the citizens of Israel.”