Two Israel Defense Forces soldiers were lightly hurt in an incident in the northern West Bank town of Tamoun on Tuesday during an undercover operation to apprehend a wanted terrorist.
Israeli army raids into Palestinian areas to seize activists and terrorists are fairly common. The raids, which are usually carried out at night and are normally coordinated with Palestinian security forces, end with the suspects usually apprehended without violence. Tuesday's daylight raid was green-lighted by the IDF when intelligence was received that wanted Islamic Jihad terrorist Murad Beni Udah was in a position to be apprehended, and that waiting for nightfall would most likely allow him to escape, Army Radio reported.
At around 9 a.m., a joint team comprised of the Mistaarvim (a special operations unit attached to the Border Police that carries out undercover missions disguised as Arabs), Engineering Corps and the Border Police secretly entered the village disguised as vegetable vendors. The wanted terrorist was taken by surprise and was apprehended while lounging in his yard.
Once the target was secured, the undercover operation became an overt and additional soldiers, in uniform, arrived at the scene.
The uniformed soldiers cordoned off a perimeter around some 15 houses and Border Police, Engineering Corps and Israel Security Agency officers combed the area. The arrest sparked clashes that lasted for hours and included rock throwing, leaving two IDF soldiers and eight Palestinians with light injuries.
Military sources said that the operation in Tamoun, which was carried out in broad daylight, posed a great challenge and that they did not take its success for granted. Udah was successfully apprehended and handed over to the Shin Bet for interrogation.
No live fire was used during the operation, only riot dispersal equipment, IDF sources said. They added that Palestinian reports suggesting that the team's cover had been "blown" were untrue. A high-ranking military official said that the only hiccup in the operation was these false reports. The reports were doubly wrong in that the undercover team had planned to reveal itself during the course of the operation anyway. At no point during the operation were the troops in any kind of crisis, the IDF stressed.
Palestinian witnesses reported that the Israeli undercover agents first arrived at the local marketplace disguised as vegetable vendors. After the arrest, when the agents revealed themselves, Palestinians at the scene began hurling rocks, bottles and large pieces of metal at the Israeli forces. A back-up Israeli team arrived with rubber bullets and tear gas in efforts to disperse the crowd.
According to Palestinian reports, at least 100 people were hurt, most of them from inhaling tear gas, and once person sustained serious injuries to his eye from a rubber bullet. The Civil Administration reported, however, that the hospital in Jenin admitted only eight Palestinians with light injuries.
The fighting, which broke out in several parts of the town of some 8,000 people, were a rare, angry response.