JERUSALEM – Israeli troops staged raids into Tulkarem Sunday and today, re-entering the northern West Bank town for the first time since returning it to Palestinian control in March. Palestinian officials condemned the incursion as a violation of agreements between the two sides.
Palestinian security officials said Israeli special forces entered Tulkarem before dawn and arrested 18-year-old Mohammed Shalhoub. Israeli military officials said Shalhoub was an Islamic Jihad militant preparing an imminent suicide attack against Israelis and had already filmed the video testament often left by suicide bombers.
Shalhoub’s sister Manar was shot dead three years ago as she attempted to stab an Israeli soldier.
Tulkarem Gov. Azzadin A-Sharif said he registered a complaint with Israeli authorities over the incursion.
Israeli military officials said the agreement gave Israel the right to re-enter Palestinian territory in cases where a Palestinian attack was imminent.
Today, Israeli troops again entered Tulkarem, shooting dead a member of the Islamic Jihad group who fired at the soldiers, Israeli Army radio reported.
Israel pledged to turn over five West Bank towns to Palestinian security control as part of a Feb. 8 cease-fire agreement, but only Tulkarem and Jericho have actually been transferred. Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said last week he was putting further handovers on hold until the Palestinian Authority fulfilled a pledge to disarm militants in the two towns they already control.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has said he prefers persuasion to maintain calm. But Abbas took a firmer tone last week, warning militants he would use force if anyone violated the truce.
Palestinian militants have fired barrages at Gaza settlements in recent weeks to make it appear they’re pushing Israel out of the volatile coastal strip.