JERUSALEM — Israel deployed several hundred soldiers around the West Bank city of Hebron on Friday after two Israelis were killed in separate attacks in the previous 48 hours.
The army also began implementing wide-ranging closures around the city, including setting up checkpoints and restricting general movement.
Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman, said the steps were the most “substantial” the Israeli army has taken on the ground since 2014, when three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed by two Palestinian militants.
On Friday afternoon, Palestinian gunmen opened fire on an Israeli family traveling on a main highway near the Israeli settlement of Otniel. The car crashed, killing a man and seriously injuring a woman. Two of the couple’s 10 children traveling in the car were lightly injured. Israeli media identified the victim as Miki Mark, director of the yeshiva in Otniel.
Lerner said that based on an initial military investigation, 20 rounds were fired at the family’s car by a passing vehicle, which immediately fled the scene. The Israeli army is searching the area for the perpetrators.
Earlier in the day, a Palestinian woman, later identified by Palestinian media as 27-year-old Sarah Tarayra from the village of Bani Naim, was fatally shot after attempting to attack Israeli soldiers at one of the main flash points between Israelis and Palestinians: the holy site that Israelis refer to as the Cave of the Patriarchs and Palestinians as the Ibrahimi Mosque.
On Thursday morning, a Palestinian youth fatally stabbed an Israeli teenager as she slept in her bed. The attacker, also from Bani Naim, infiltrated the Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba near Hebron, authorities said. He was fatally shot at the scene. The victim, 13-year-old Hallel Yaffe Ariel, was a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen and a relative of Israel’s agriculture minister, Uri Ariel.
Lerner said that there have been more than 80 attacks or attempted attacks by Palestinians against Israeli civilians and military forces in the Hebron region since September. Last month, two Palestinians from the area opened fire in a food market in central Tel Aviv, killing four Israelis. Israel increased its security posture after that attack, as well.
“In light of this recent spike and in order to disrupt, prevent and foil further attacks, these steps have to be taken,” he said. The closures will apply to the entire Hebron district, and movement will be limited to humanitarian needs. There was no indication of how long the measures will be in place.
The closures will seriously impact freedom of movement for Palestinians, who are celebrating the last few days of Ramadan this weekend. Roughly 700,000 people live in the area.
In addition to the military actions, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office released a statement saying that Israel will start to deduct money from the monthly tax revenue it transfers to the Palestinian Authority to reflect the amounts given to support “terrorists and their families.”
Israel believes that what it sees as the encouragement of terrorism by the Palestinian leadership — in the form of both incitement and payments to terrorists and their families — constitutes incentive for murder.
“To see Hallel’s room, to see the bloodstains at her bedside and the books and clothing of a little girl, is shocking,” Netanyahu said after visiting the Ariel family in Kiryat Arba on Friday morning. “It reminds us once again of who stands before us — they want to uproot us, but this will only deepen our roots. They will not get us out of here.”
Israeli settlements such as Kiryat Arba are considered illegal by most of the international community and Palestinians. A report published Friday by the United Nations, United States, Russia and the European Union named the settlements as one of the biggest obstacles to achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
The attacks over the past two days are the latest in a wave of violent incidents by Palestinians against Israelis, as well as harsh Israeli countermeasures. Although in recent weeks the violence has tapered somewhat, since the beginning of October, 33 Israelis and two American tourists have been killed in stabbing, shooting and vehicle attacks carried out by Palestinians. Nearly 200 Palestinians, many of whom were attackers, also have been killed by Israeli forces or armed civilians.