Israeli security forces have arrested a cell of Palestinian Authority teenagers suspected of attacking Jewish worshipers and security forces at Rachel’s Tomb, in northern Bethlehem, police announced Thursday morning.
The seven suspects, all residents of Aida refugee camp located adjacent to the site, are suspected of throwing rocks and improvised pipe bombs towards the prayer site on several occasions in recent months. Police say the suspects, all aged 16 and 17, produced the explosives, planned and carried out the terror attacks by themselves. The pipe bombs were thrown from an area under full Palestinian Authority control (‘Area A’).
While the attacks caused no casualties, they caused extensive damage to the site and endangered worshipers. The compound is commonly believed to be the burial place of the Biblical matriarch Rachel.
Police and Border Police forces arrested all seven cell members during the past week. The last three arrests took place on Wednesday night. Police claimed that the suspects admitted to participating in many attacks on Israelis at Rachel’s Tomb.
The investigation also revealed that the cell members had learned how to assemble the explosives from the internet. They purchased the materials themselves, assembled the pipe bombs and would then gather together near Rachel’s Tomb mainly on Friday afternoons. After hurling the explosives and throwing rocks they would return to their village.
The suspects’ remand has been extended at a military court, and three were arraigned on Wednesday. Police said the investigation is ongoing, and that more arrests are expected.
In a related story, IDF forces discovered and seized two pipe bombs overnight in Nur Shams, an Arab village near Tulkarem in Samaria. In the village of Qarawat Bani Hassan, troops discovered and confiscated weapon parts found inside a house.
The IDF Spokesperson reports that on Friday a PA terrorist with a knife approached the vehicle of the Judea Regional Commander (Machat Yehuda) near the community of Negohot (South Hebron Hills area) with the intent to stab him.
IDF soldiers prevented the attack and the terrorist was apprehended.
An IDF officer was wounded inside the Gush Etzion town of Efrat in a terror attack, early Sunday morning, according to the IDF.
The town’s security cameras saw a suspicious figure just outside the perimeter of the town at 1:40 AM. Local security forces and the IDF were called out and searched all night for the terrorist who was hiding in some bushes inside the town. At around 6 AM the terrorist jumped out of his hiding spot and stabbed an IDF officer involved in the search.
The attack happened at the entrance to Tziporen Street, next to Pitom HaKetoret Street, in the Zayit neighborhood.
Hatzalah Judea and Samaria says the officer is in moderate condition, with a wound to the stomach. He was taken to Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital.
The terrorist was shot and neutralized, and is currently listed in moderate condition, with a bullet wound to the head, according to Hadassah hospital (the terrorist was originally listed in critical condition, but apparently the bullet bounced off his head). The terrorist is a 20-year-old from the village of Irtas (Artas), next to Bethlehem, just north-east of Efrat.
The town of Efrat was in lockdown until 7 AM while security teams searched for possible additional terrorists.
The terrorist had 2 knives on him. A more serious attack was foiled.
7:09 AM: The lockdown is over. Schools will starting on time, with additional security.
Refuah Sheleima to the officer: Shraga Eliezer ben Bat Sheva