JERUSALEM, Israel – Israel recently announced the arrest of 19 members of three separate terror cells in an Arab village in Gush Etzion, the region south of Jerusalem known as Judea.
Two years ago, in June 2014, Arab terrorists kidnapped three Israeli teenagers in that area as they waited at a bus stop to hitchhike home from boarding school. After more than two heart-wrenching weeks of intensive searching by Israeli security forces, their bodies were discovered in a shallow grave by the side of the road.
It was one of many terror attacks in Gush Etzion targeting Israelis of all ages, but some say that tragedy factored into Israel's decision to launch Operation Protective Edge in Gaza the following month.
Two years later, another increase in drive-by shootings and firebomb attacks on Jewish residents in Gush Etzion precipitated a sting operation that uncovered the three terror cells and their weapons caches in Beit Fajjar.
Using the village as a home base, the terrorists focused on intimidating Jewish residents with firebomb and shooting attacks, repeatedly targeting Kibbutz Migdal Oz not far from Beit Fajjar.
Israeli Intelligence tracking led investigators to key members of all three cells, which in turn led to uncovering their terror operations.
An IDF military court indicted the 19 suspects on terrorism charges.
Some 34,000 Israelis live in Gush Etzion, an area the Palestinian Authority wants as part of a future state.