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(photo credit:Channel 2)
After months of quiet, a father of seven was shot dead in a drive-by shooting attack near the northern Samaria settlement of Shavei Shomron on Thursday.
The victim was identified as Meir Chai, a 45-year-old resident of the settlement and father of seven children ranging in age from two months to 18.
Chai was the fourth terror victim in the West Bank in 2009. In March, two policemen were shot dead in the Jordan Valley and in April, 13-year-old Shlomo Nativ was stabbed to death near his home in the Gush Etzion settlement of Bat Ayin.
Chai was driving in his minivan on Road 57, between Shavei Shomron and Einav, when a Palestinian car overtook him and opened fire. Chai was hit in the head and drove off the road. Magen David Adom paramedics arrived quickly at the scene and despite their efforts, were forced to pronounce his death.
"We are looking into every possible direction with intelligence and by searching nearby villages," said Brig.-Gen. Nitzan Alon, commander of the Judea and Samaria Brigade. "We will continue acting to prevent terrorist attacks and to find the murderers."
Large IDF and Border Police forces were alerted to the scene and began searching for the terrorists. According to Palestinian reports, the Imad Mughniyeh Group - in reference to the Hizbullah commander assassinated two years ago - claimed responsibility for the attack. It also claimed to be affiliated with Fatah's Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades.
The group said its members "withdrew from the area safely." It also warned of "a series of attacks to come."
The IDF set up checkpoints on major roads in the area in an effort to capture the gunmen and was coordinating with Palestinian security forces, which reportedly found a car set ablaze in a field near Tulkarm that might have been used by the terrorists.
Gil Bismot, the head of Zaka in Judea and Samaria, said that several bullet holes riddled the minivan.
"I'm not a ballistics expert, but an automatic weapon seems to have been involved," Bismot told The Jerusalem Post.
"At first, emergency services thought the incident involved a road accident. When our volunteers and security personnel arrived on the scene, it became clear that this was a shooting attack," he added.
Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report
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