Israeli soldier killed in surging Palestinian violence

Since Friday night, Jan. 7 – when Israeli paratrooper, Sgt. Nadav Rutenberg, 20, from Moshav Ramot Hashavim, died and four others were injured during an ambush from the Gaza Strip – Palestinian terrorists have been on the offensive – both in Gaza and the West Bank, debkafile's military sources report.

Saturday, a would-be suicide bomber from Jenin armed with two pipe bombs shouting Allah is Great! jumped out of a taxi at the Israeli checkpoint at  Beqaot in the northern Jordanian Valley and tried to rush the soldiers. They called him to stop and shot him when he kept going. The other passengers fled.

It was the first attack by a Jenin inhabitant in the four years of relative peace prevailing on the West Bank since Israel beat back the Palestinian uprising.

Friday, another Palestinian was shot on the West Bank; he was running at an Israeli roadblock with what looked like a bottle bomb.

Thursday, Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas ordered the release of five Palestinian Hamas terrorists responsible for murdering four Israeli civilians on a road near Bet Haggai on Aug. 31, 2010.

Abbas had pledged to keep captured terrorists behind bars after Israel handed Palestinian Authority responsibility for security in West Bank cities. However, for the sake of a gesture to please the Emir of Qatar, the Palestinian leader reverted to the infamous revolving door policy the PA had exercised in former years.

An Israeli squad was sent out to Hebron forthwith to re-arrest the Hamas killers. A 66-year old man was shot by mistake and the wanted men got away.

Saturday saw a resumption of attacks on the Gaza Strip front: A volley of four mortar shells hit foreign laborers' lodgings at a kibbutz in the Shear Hanegev district. Three of them were hurt, one seriously, and were evacuated to hospital.

debkafile's military sources report that Hamas and Jihad Islami have improved the aim of their mortars with the help of recently-delivered Iranian devices. They are now able to achieve more direct hits instead of their usual hit-or-miss performance.
Saturday, Palestinian organizations in Gaza let loose with mortars apparently signaling that further escalation lay ahead should Israel retaliate for the Gaza ambush of Friday night, in which Sgt. Rutenberg was killed.
Responding to reports that Palestinians were again laying explosive devices on the border fence, they ran into an ambush of heavy automatic, mortar and anti-tank rocket fire from Palestinian positions. Tanks and assault helicopters had to be brought in to douse the attack.

As the firefight raged, a stray Israeli mortar shell hit the paratroops in mid-battle, killing the Israeli sergeant and injuring four members of his unit, one of them an officer who is in serious condition in hospital. Brig. Tal Russo, OC Southern Command has ordered an inquiry into the incident.

In recent weeks, Palestinian terrorist activity from the Gaza Strip has become increasingly bold, ranging from explosive devices planted on the border fence to missile and mortar fire on Israeli towns and military patrols.

debkafile's military sources report that Israel's responses have been too restrained and cautious to stem the escalation. Indeed, Hamas, Jihad Islami and the Islamist groups operating in Gaza under the al Qaeda-linked Jalalat umbrella have taken encouragement from Israel's military restraint and redoubled their assaults.

The Hizballah militiamen and Al Qaeda militants who fought in Iraq who have arrived in Gaza studied IDF responses and its mode of operation and decided to switch tactics.  Friday night, instead of another attempt to plant explosive devices on the fence – like the many which ended in the Palestinian assailants' deaths – they set up an ambush.

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