Three Israelis killed in Independence Day terror attack

What happened: Three Israelis were killed in a terror attack in Elad last night and three others who were injured remain in hospital in critical condition.

  • The attack took place around 8:30pm, just after the Independence Day celebrations ended around the country. Two assailants armed with an axe and a knife attacked citizens in a city park. A security guard on the scene responded by firing his personal weapon, but one of the terrorists managed to hit him.
  • Police and IDF forces arrived at the scene to try to catch the terrorists, but they managed to get into a car and flee the scene.
  • The three victims are Boaz Gol, a 49-year-old resident of the city and father of five; Yonatan Havakuk, a 44-year-old resident of city and father of five; Oren Ben Yitfah, a 35-year-old resident of Lod and father of six.
  • This morning the identity of the two suspects were released. Assad Al-Rafa’i and Subhi Abu Shakir, both aged 20, come from the village Rummanah in the Jenin area. They have no record of security offenses.
  • Responding to the attack Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said: “Our enemies embarked on a killing spree against Jews for being Jews. Their goal is to break our spirit. They will fail. We will place our hands on the terrorists and on their supportive environments and they will pay the price.”
  • Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas also condemned the terror attack and warned that the murder of Palestinian and Israeli citizens would cause the situation to deteriorate at a time that everyone was trying to achieve stability and to prevent the situation from escalating. He also condemned what he called the attack on the holy places to Islam and Christianity that had caused the tension and the instability.
  • Meanwhile, Hamas welcomed the terror attack. Hamas Spokesman Hazem Qasim said that the Palestinian people defended its holy places and that it was unthinkable that an attack on al-Aqsa would take place without the occupation being punished.
  • Yesterday Palestinians clashed with police on the Temple Mount after it was reopened for non-Muslim visitors for the first time since 22nd April. Hamas had threatened to retaliate if Jewish visitors were allowed to return to the holy site.
  • Defence Minister Benny Gantz said last night that the closure imposed on the West Bank before Memorial Day will continue at least until Sunday.

Context: This is the 14th terror attack in the last two months that has seen 18 killed in six lethal attacks.

  • Elad, a town of some 50,000 residents, mostly ultra-Orthodox, is located a short distance to the west of the West Bank security barrier, which has been frequently breached by assailants trying to carrying out attacks.
  • In addition to the suspects in the Elad attack, the perpetrators of the recent deadly attacks in Bnei Brak and Tel Aviv also hailed from Jenin and its environs.
  • Jenin was the centre of the IDF’s counter-terror operations following those two attacks. However, over the past few weeks, the IDF has kept the intensity of their activity low so as not to exacerbate the situation on the ground.
  • Some security correspondents in Israel note that in a speech last Saturday, Hamas’s Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar urged Palestinians to attack Israelis with whatever they had — including axes. “Let everyone who has a rifle, ready it. And if you don’t have a rifle, ready your cleaver or an axe, or a knife,” Sinwar said.
  • Earlier this week, Hamas’s military wing took responsibility for the shooting attack in the West Bank settlement of Ariel on Friday that left an Israeli security guard dead.
  • Israel Police said that dozens of Palestinian rioters lobbed stones and other projectiles at police while shouting nationalist chants yesterday on the Temple Mount. Forces pushed the rioters back into the mosque as they began throwing objects “while damaging and desecrating the mosque,” according to a police statement.
  • The police added that visits will continue as usual without interruption to worshippers on the Temple Mount area, and security forces are working to secure and maintain order at the site. Police have also cited sprawling online misinformation as a catalyst of tensions at the area.
  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken “vehemently condemn” the attack in Elad. In a statement, he said: “This was a horrific attack targeting innocent men and women and was particularly heinous coming as Israel celebrated its Independence Day. We remain in close contact with our Israeli friends and partners and stand firmly with them in the face of this attack.”

Looking ahead: The manhunt for the two terrorists continues. In a statement, a police spokesperson said all means available are being used to search for the vehicle that had fled the scene.

  • Defence Minister Gantz has ordered using all the necessary troops to close the seamline and prevent the assailants’ possible escape into the West Bank.
  • A security assessment meeting will take place on Saturday evening to decide whether to extend the closure on the West Bank.

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