Amid terror warnings, security forces begin patching holes in West Bank barrier

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Engineering work began Wednesday to seal the breaches in the West Bank security barrier used by Palestinians to enter Israel illegally, defense officials said.

The army said it was repairing holes for tens of kilometers of the fence and was digging trenches to prevent vehicles from crossing the so-called ‘seam zone’ area along the fence security in the West Bank.

In addition, other efforts are being made to strengthen the defenses along the barrier, the IDF said.

Work began following several deadly terror attacks in Israel, including two in which terrorists from the northern West Bank entered Israel through large holes in the fence. The forces were put on high alert for further attacks ahead of the Passover holiday and carried out raids near Jenin to quell suspected terrorist activity.

According to Hebrew-language media, Israeli officials had “live” information about several suspected terror attacks planned for the Jewish festival, which begins Friday evening. Security forces were working to foil plans, including a raid near Ramallah on Wednesday night that was reportedly aimed at thwarting a planned major attack in Jerusalem.

The IDF has sent thousands of troops in recent weeks to the seam zone – a strip of West Bank land on the Israeli side of the fence – to prevent Palestinians from crossing into Israel. Although part of the barrier is a concrete wall, much of it is just a fence.

In recent years, thousands of Palestinians have entered Israel through gaps in the fence every day to work, but the IDF has pledged to clamp down after several terror attacks by Palestinians who used the gaps to reach Israeli towns. including one who crossed the border with a vehicle.

“Our task is to seal off the seam area in a way that will not allow illegal passage,” IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi said from the scene of the engineering works on Wednesday.

“We will continue to operate anywhere, with any method and to the extent necessary to counter terror. In recent days, we have reinforced the area significantly with forces and engineering means to improve the infrastructure of the barrier,” he added.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, left, meets with Colonel Fares Atila, head of the Civil Administration, center, and IDF Central Command Chief, Major General Yehuda Fuchs, right, along the West Bank security fence, April 13, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

On Wednesday, the army sent three more heavy machinery companies, along with reservist troops from the IDF’s Combat Engineering Corp for the effort.

The announcement comes a day after Defense Minister Benny Gantz said his office was working on plans to allow tens of thousands of additional Palestinian workers in Israel legally.

Ministers also earlier this week approved funding of NIS 300 million ($93 million) to upgrade a 40-kilometre stretch of the fence in the northern West Bank. This was separate from the army efforts that began on Wednesday.

Tensions have skyrocketed between Israel and the Palestinians in recent weeks amid repeated terror attacks in Israeli towns that have left 14 people dead.

The escalation came in the middle of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan – often a time of high tension in Israel and the West Bank.

The army has intensified its activities in the West Bank in an attempt to quell the spiral of violence. During the night of Tuesday to Wednesday and Wednesday morning, at least 21 Palestinians suspected of terrorist activities were arrested by the security forces.

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