An Israeli army raid in the occupied West Bank that killed at least 11 Palestinians and wounded more than 100 others was “worth the risk”, Yaakov Amidror, the former head of the Israeli National Security Council, told The National on Thursday.
The operation was launched in the city of Nablus against three suspects “planning attacks in the immediate future” and the threat was “neutralised”, the Israeli Defence Forces and Israel Security Agency said.
The death toll was the highest for a single raid since the Second Intifada, or uprising, ended in 2005.
It was described as a “massacre” by top Palestinian official Hussein Al Sheikh, who called for “international protection for our people”.
But despite heavy Palestinian losses, Mr Amidror said the operation was “clearly worth the risk”.
He added that the operation was “a decision that could not be postponed”.
“The information was that there was a terror group very ready for an attack,” he continued.
“The decision was based on assessing the risk of losing the operatives. In the end, the risk of going into Nablus was less than letting them go out and hide somewhere else.”
He played down fears that the operation might escalate tension, leading to a new intifada.
“As far as we understand the situation in the West Bank today, the risk of a new intifada is very limited,” he said.
“Hamas and Islamic Jihad have less influence on the ground than they used to.”
But escalation seems to be occurring regardless. Before dawn on Thursday, Palestinian militants fired rockets from Gaza at Israel, prompting air strikes by the army on several sites in the coastal enclave.
Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the rockets, after saying one of its commanders was killed in the Nablus raid.
The Israeli army said it had intercepted five rockets, while a sixth struck an uninhabited area.
Two hours later, Israeli air strikes were launched against a “weapons factory” and a “military camp” run by Gaza's rulers Hamas, the army said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned those firing rockets into Israel: “Whoever tries to attack us will pay the price”.
International actors have called for an end to the violence. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the “immediate priority must be to prevent further escalation”, describing the situation as “its most combustible in years.”
The UN's Middle East envoy travelled to the area on Thursday.
The US said it was “extremely concerned by the levels of violence” and called for de-escalation.