Israel is considering responding to the ongoing wave of deadly terror attacks by launching a military operation in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank, with a focus on the city of Jenin, according to Hebrew media reports Sunday.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz were said to be divided over which of the two options to pursue, during a meeting with top security officials about the terror onslaught.
Jenin was highlighted because most of the Palestinians who carried out recent terror attacks came from the city or its surroundings, including two men arrested earlier in the day after perpetrating an axe attack last Thursday in the Israeli town of Elad that killed three people and seriously injured several others.
A broad military operation in Jenin would aim to arrest suspects and prevent further attacks. It would also include additional arrest operations in other towns and cities as well as a show of force across the West Bank, according to reports.
Alternatively, an operation in Gaza would target the Hamas terror group, the ruler of the Palestinian enclave, which is seen as inciting Palestinians to stage attacks.
The unsourced reports did not specify what a potential Gaza operation would entail.
Gantz, backed by the Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet security service, favored a Jenin operation, while Bennett pushed for taking on Gaza, Channel 13 news reported.
Following the meeting, the military liaison unit to the Palestinians, known as COGAT, announced that the closure of West Bank crossings that has been in place since last Tuesday would end Sunday night.
However, Palestinians from Rummanah, near Jenin, where the Elad terrorists came from will not be allowed to enter Israel, COGAT said. The Gaza Strip’s Erez Crossing into Israel will remain closed until further notice, though it will be open for humanitarian, medical, and other special needs.
In another move aimed at curbing the wave of terror, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar told Channel 12 that he ordered his office to look into whether authorities can demolish the homes of terrorists even if they are citizens of Israel.
A number of the recent attacks were carried out by Israeli Arab citizens, and Sa’ar said demolishing their homes may help deter future attackers.
“We need to find new methods of deterrence,” Sa’ar said.
Until now, Israel has only implemented the controversial policy against Palestinians in the West Bank, and there may be legal barriers preventing its implementation within the Green Line.
Israel’s last major conflict with the Gaza Strip was the 11-day clash in May 2021 dubbed Operation Guardian of the Walls by the IDF. As Hamas-led terror groups fired thousands of rockets at Israeli cities, Israel responded with intensive airstrikes on terror targets in Gaza.
On Saturday, Hamas threatened to go back to carrying out suicide bombings and to “burn” Israeli cities if Jerusalem resumes its policy of targeted killings of senior terror figures.
The group’s military wing also issued a threat for an “unprecedented response” and a “regional earthquake,” should Israel attempt to harm any of its top leadership, especially Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar.
Some Israeli legislators and pundits have advocated killing Sinwar in response to the current terror wave, which he has urged on from the coastal enclave.
Since March 22, when the terror began to spike, 19 Israelis have been killed in attacks. There were two further attacks by Palestinians on Sunday, a stabbing at the Damascus Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem that moderately injured a policeman, and the infiltration in the West Bank Israeli settlement of Tekoa by a man carrying a knife.
Both Palestinians were shot by security personnel.