On February 4 and 5, Israeli security forces entered the Aqbat Jaber refugee camp—located less than two miles outside the city of Jericho—to arrest terrorists, and were drawn into gunfights on both days. In the second incursion, five terrorists were killed, including two who had opened fire at diners in a restaurant last month in an attack that would have been fatal were it not for a jammed rifle. Yoni Ben Menachem explains the significance of these operations:
The city of Jericho is considered the quietest city in the West Bank and is located near a main traffic axis for Israeli and Arab vehicles going from the south to the north in the Jordan Valley. The presence of armed terrorists in the Jericho area is very dangerous for Israel from a security point of view, hence the importance of the IDF operation in Aqbat Jaber.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad are taking advantage of the Palestinian Authority’s weakness and unwillingness to fight terrorism to establish armed terrorist groups called “battalions” throughout Judea and Samaria. So far, about ten such terrorist groups have been established in the Nablus, Jenin, and Tulkarm areas.
Hamas’s Aqbat Jaber Battalion is an attempt by terrorist organizations to spread in the southern West Bank. The group grew in Jericho under the noses of the Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces, who refrain from fighting against the armed terrorist groups, which forces the IDF and the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) to do the work in their place.
Hamas will try to hijack the city of Jericho and other cities such as Qalqilya and Tulkarm in its effort to provoke a new armed intifada against Israel. Smuggled weapons are flowing into the West Bank at an increasing rate through the border with Jordan and Israel’s security forces are finding it difficult to stop the phenomenon.