newsIsrael at War

Judea and Samaria face new reality of aerial terrorism

Air raid sirens wailed in communities from northern Samaria all the way down to the South Hebron Hills, along with many places in between.

Binyamin Regional Council head Israel Ganz (in black T-shirt) and IDF Central Command Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox (on Ganz's left) during the search for 14-year-old shepherd Binyamin Achimeir. Credit: Binyamin Regional Council Spokesperson.
Binyamin Regional Council head Israel Ganz (in black T-shirt) and IDF Central Command Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox (on Ganz's left) during the search for 14-year-old shepherd Binyamin Achimeir. Credit: Binyamin Regional Council Spokesperson.

The more than half a million Israeli residents of Judea and Samaria are no strangers to terrorism. In 2023, the region saw a 350% increase in terrorist attacks compared to the previous year. There were 300 shooting attacks last year, the most since the second intifada in the early 2000s.

The body of 14-year-old Jerusalem resident Binyamin Achimeir, a young shepherd, was found on Saturday. He was brutally murdered by Arab terrorists near the community of Malachei Shalom in the Binyamin region of Samaria.

But late Saturday night, as Iran launched an unprecedented missile/drone attack on the Jewish state, with around 300 projectiles fired, residents in dozens of communities throughout Judea and Samaria headed for their bomb shelters, facing a different type of threat, one that is less common in this part of Israel.

The IDF spokesperson told JNS there is no statistical breakdown on the number of attacks that took place in Judea and Samaria, as “many of the rockets and drones were intercepted outside Israeli borders and there’s no certainty on where the rockets/drones were aimed at.”

In any case, around 1:45 a.m., sirens wailed in communities in northern Samaria including Kedumim and Karnei Shomron, all the way down to Ma’ale Hever and Beit Yatir, in the South Hebron Hills, along with many places in between.

Municipal and community leaders, security teams and first responders were forced to adapt and face this new reality, without losing track of existing terrorist threats.

Susya resident Natalie Sopinsky, director of development for the Rescuers Without Borders emergency first response organization (formerly known Hatzalah Yehuda and Shomron), told JNS the situation was intense. “I couldn’t believe it. Our residents were heading for the shelters, with sirens three times, and with the booms over our heads.”

She said her son, who is part of the community’s volunteer emergency anti-terror first response team, was called into action to protect one of the neighboring communities, as they had reports that terrorists would take advantage of the situation and carry out an infiltration attempt. 

Sopinsky said her family and neighbors waited it out in the shelters till after 3 a.m., when they were given the all-clear.

Around the same time, residents of communities throughout Gush Etzion headed to the shelters, with sirens blaring, alerting of incoming projectiles.

Just before midnight, the Gush Etzion Regional Council, headed by Yaron Rosenthal, sent out messages warning residents that Iran was attacking and to abide by the instructions of the IDF Home Front Command to keep safe.

A follow-up message from the council spokesperson said, “We have been at war for six months and have faced many emergencies as individuals and as a community. We have within us the personal and communal resilience to cope with the coming days as well.”

The council also released information from the Ministry of Health including phone numbers of resilience centers and emergency and emotional support centers aligned with the various national health funds (think HMOs). They also included instructions for parents on how to help children cope with the situation.

Another message was sent out the morning after the attack, alerting residents that should they come across pieces of shrapnel from the intercepted Iranian projectiles, they should not be touched, as they present a hazard, and that the police should be informed.

The Arabs of Judea and Samaria

Binyamin Regional Council head Israel Ganz told JNS, “Since the beginning of the war, we have been increasing our preparedness to defend our communities. We have been equipping the communities and the emergency first response teams with weapons and other equipment that have already proven effective to help our forces.”

He said, “In addition to the missile threats, we are very alert to the possibility that the Arabs of Judea and Samaria, led by the Palestinian Authority, will try to reproduce what the Arabs of Gaza did in the south [on Oct. 7]. We won’t let that happen.”

Ganz added, “We update the residents with instructions on an ongoing basis. The council’s emergency system is in top shape and we are in close contact with the senior army commanders.”

Regarding last night’s attack, Ganz said, “We heard the sirens in some of our communities. Since we are located in an area that envelopes Jerusalem, we saw the missiles and the interceptions above our heads. And in the background, we heard the joyous cheers of the local Arabs—rooting on Iran, as they watched the missile attacks.”

Y.T., a veteran combat soldier and spokeswoman from one of the communities in the Binyamin region, years ago assisted in setting up all of the security and rescue services throughout Judea, Samaria, the Jordan Valley and Gush Katif (in Gaza). She told JNS, “Even in ‘normal’ times we work closely together, being in touch with our security forces, the IDF, Border Police, MDA [Magen David Adom]—and of course our residents. This cooperation, us working together, especially now, is imperative.”

She added, “We are on the alert both inside the community, checking if there is any unusual activity, on the border fences, and outside the community near the security fences and roads. We keep our residents informed 24-7 if there is a change in the daily routine, not only when we are attacked in our homeland with rockets and missiles but on a daily basis.”

Y.T. said leading up to last night, “we mapped out the entire community for our residents to identify where there are protected security shelters, whether in homes or [if the closest safe spot] is the nearest public shelter. We made sure to direct the residents to have their shelters prepared. We also reminded them to enter them ASAP. Time is life!”

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