Israeli army beefs up West Bank presence following murders of two rabbis


(JTA) — The Israeli army has beefed up its presence in the West Bank following the slayings of two rabbis there in recent weeks.

Three additional battalions were deployed in the area starting Wednesday amid concerns that the deadly attacks in the area signal a new wave of terrorism, the Israel Hayom daily reported.

Itamar Ben-Gal of the Har Bracha settlement was gunned down on Feb. 5. Rabbi Raziel Shevach of the Havat Gilad settlement was killed on Jan. 9.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman criticized Haaretz on Friday after the left-wing Israeli daily published an op-ed calling Har Bracha, which in Hebrew means “mountain of blessing,” “mountain of curses.”

“What has become of .@Haaretz ? Four young children are sitting shiva for their murdered father and this publication calls their community a ‘mountain of curses.’ Have they no decency?” Friedman wrote on Twitter regarding the murder of Ben-Gal.

The op-ed by Gideon Levy, a columnist who supports a blanket boycott of Israel and its reconstitution as a binational state for Jews and Palestinians, criticized Friedman for his contribution of an ambulance for Har Bracha.

The redeployment of troops in the West Bank was accompanied by Palestinian rioting in which a 16-year-old Palestinian was critically injured from gunshots in the town of Kafr Aqab, north of Jerusalem, according to the official Palestinian Authority-owned Wafa news agency.

Another three Palestinians were killed in three separate incidents this week, the Maan news agency reported, and dozens of others were injured in clashes with Israeli troops.

Notwithstanding, the number of terrorist attacks against Israelis dropped sharply to 118 incidents in January from 249 incidents recorded the previous month, the Israel Security Agency, or Shin Bet, wrote in its monthly report earlier this week.

In addition to the slaying of Shevach, three Israelis, all of them security personnel, were wounded in attacks last month.

The tally for December was a two-year record and constituted the sharpest monthly rise in attacks since 2014 at least — a 296 percent increase over the 84 recorded in November.

The leap in the number of attacks corresponded with an uptick in terrorist activity following President Donald Trump’s Dec. 6 declaration that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Recommended from JTA