Two Palestinians Three people are believed to have been killed in a terrorist attack on Israel’s Independence Day – the latest in the worst wave of attacks in Israel Israel in years – have been detained by police after a three-day manhunt.
The suspects, identified as As’ad Yousef As’ad al-Rifa’i, 19, Subhi Emad Subhi Abu Shqeir, 20, both from the occupied village of Rumana in the West Bank, were caught near a quarry outside the town of Elad in the center of Israel on Sunday, according to a statement from the Israeli police, the military and the internal security service.
A massive search for the couple had been underway since Thursday evening, when two assailants armed with an ax and a knife stabbed people during the Independence Day celebrations in Elad, an ultra-Orthodox city.
Israeli media identified the dead as Yonatan Havakuk, Boaz Gol and Oren Ben Yiftah, fathers between the ages of 30 and 40 who are survived by 16 children. Four more people were injured.
Ben Yiftah, a driver, was hired to pick up the attackers near a… breach of security fence in Israel’s West Bank without knowing they had crossed the barrier illegally, Israeli officials said last week. Upon arriving in Elad, they killed him before proceeding to target passers-by.
The perpetrators then fled, triggering a massive search operation involving special forces, commando units, drones and helicopters, before surrendering to masked soldiers on a rugged stretch of land outside the city early on Sunday.
A wave of deadly street attacks targeting Israelis, accompanied by violent clashes at al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem Between Palestinian protesters and the Israeli police, tensions have soared in recent weeks.
Eighteen Israelis, including an Arab-Israeli police officer and two Ukrainian nationals, have been killed in five separate incidents. Three Arab-Israelis and 27 Palestinians were killed in the same period, including an unarmed woman and two alleged bystanders, as well as the attackers. The Palestinian victims were mostly killed by Israeli security forces during intensified military operations in the occupied West Bank.
The recent escalation has sparked fears of another armed conflict, similar to the 11-day war a year ago between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, triggered in part by the unrest in al-Aqsa, a site sacred to both Jews and Muslims.
Informally, Jews are allowed to visit the site, but not pray. In recent years, however, a growing number of Jewish visitors, sometimes praying with police escorts, have fueled long-standing Palestinian fears that Israel plans to annex the area.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told his cabinet on Sunday that the country is entering a “new phase in the war on terror” and said Israel was setting up a civilian national guard that would be deployed in emergencies such as the types of attacks that the country has experienced in recent weeks.
“The main goal of the Israeli government is to restore the personal safety of Israeli citizens,” he said.
Bennett will also convene his security cabinet this week to discuss Israel’s options in responding to the latest incident and Hamas incitement.
All recent attacks on Israeli territory appear to have been perpetrated by individuals or small groups acting without coordination from larger organizations. Hamas leaders praised Thursday’s events in Elad but claimed no responsibility.
Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Sunday that officials were considering restricting Gazan workers’ access to Israel and Hundreds of Holes in the Separation Wall in the West Bank that thousands of Palestinians use to access illegal work in Israel.
Aware of the economic pressures facing Palestinian society, and taking advantage of the cheap labor force, Israel had until recently turned a blind eye to illegal crossings from the West Bank.