A veteran police officer was killed and two officers wounded in a terrorist attack on their police vehicle in the West Bank on Monday morning.

A Palestinian gunman ambushed a police van that was ferrying five officers from Beersheba to Jerusalem at around 7:20 a.m.

The van was attacked as it drove eastbound on Route 60 in the Hebron Hills region.

Several bullets struck the van, piercing windows and wounding three officers inside.

The gunman claimed the life of F.-Sgt. Yehoshua “Shuki” Sofer, 39, who served in the Hebron police sub-district for 14 years, and was due to marry his fiance in three months.

In the seconds after the shooting, the driver of the van, F.-Sgt. Mordechai Danon, who was moderately wounded, continued driving to a local IDF base situated in the nearby settlement of Beit Haggai.

His decision to drive on rather than return fire was later backed by Judea and Samaria Police chief Cmdr. Hagai Dotan, who said that Danon’s decision to get the wounded officers to the hospital as soon as possible was “the correct action.”

Sofer, who was hit in the stomach, was airlifted with another seriously wounded officer to the Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center in Jerusalem by Magen David Adom paramedics.

Sofer died of his injuries two hours after arriving at the hospital.

He was buried in the military section of Beersheba’s old cemetery on Monday evening. His flag-draped coffin was carried by seven officers to its final resting place as family members and his fiance, Einav Blum, grieved.



“My heart has exploded. It cannot contain so much pain,” Blum said at the funeral. “Sweetie, all of our wedding guests have come to accompany you on your final journey. Who can now tell me he loved me more than he loved himself? In case I didn’t say it enough, I love you and will continue to love you,” she said.

Hundreds of mourners were present, including police brass and Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen.

On Monday evening, the attack was claimed by the Fatah al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades and by an unknown group calling itself the “Flotilla Martyrs.” The latter group released a statement saying it would refuse to recognize any cease-fire and vowed to continue attacks.

IDF sources assessed on Monday that the shooter was likely a lone terrorist or a local cell operating on its own, without direction or backing from a larger group.

According to IDF officers, the trend in terrorism in recent years has been toward attacks carried out by individuals, without working with a larger organization.

“It’s very difficult to collect intelligence on an individual, and then to prevent what that individual plans to carry out all by himself,” an IDF officer said.

“We are operating on two levels – the intelligence level and the operational level – to capture the perpetrators,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

Police said vehicles used to transport officers in the West Bank were designed to withstand rocks and firebombings, but not bullets. Bulletproof cars and vans may be introduced for Judea and Samaria Police following the shooting.

In the hours after the shooting, police and the IDF declared the area a closed military zone, asking settlers in the region to stay in their homes for fear that they would be targeted by the terror cell, which was still at large.

IDF troops were still searching for the perpetrator of the attack Monday night and had imposed a curfew on the Palestinian village Dir Razah. The IDF was investigating whether the shots were fired from a passing car, or by a sniper lying on the side of the road.

The shooting prompted furious responses from settler organizations, which said that the attack was made possible due to the recent removal of several checkpoints in the West Bank.

“This attack shows that the resolve of terrorists to destroy any sense of peace and tranquility in these areas remains unabated. This brutal act is a clear indicator to the Israeli authorities that we need to reinforce policies that will best protect our citizens and our security services against all acts of terror,” said Naftali Bennett, the director-general of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.

The Samaria Settlers’ Committees called for Defense Minister Ehud Barak to resign, accusing him of endangering settlers and police officers in the region.

In March 2009, two Judea and Samaria police officers, Yehezkel Ramazreger and David Rabinovitch, were shot dead in the Jordan Valley in a terrorist ambush.

The policemen had stopped to provide assistance to a Palestinian terrorist who pretended that his car had broken down.

Tovah Lazaroff and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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