The terrorist who evaded security forces for two months made almost no mistakes while on the run, a senior IDF officer said Thursday.
“He almost didn’t make any mistakes and was able to live on the run for a good period of time. He had a lot of luck and help after the attack,” a senior IDF officer said of 23-year-old Ashraf Suleiman Na’alwa.
Na’alwa, from the West Bank village of Shuweika near Tulkarm, was on the run from security forces after he shot and killed Kim Yehezkel-Levengrond and Ziv Hajbi in the Barkan industrial area outside Ariel on October 7.
While the IDF and Shin Bet have yet to track every location he was hiding in during his time on the run, it is believed that he first headed north of the Barkan industrial area to the northern Samaria region before back-tracking south to the Nablus area.
The joint operation between the IDF, the Shin Bet and the Israel Police were able to track him to the Askar refugee camp adjoining Nablus after a large-scale intelligence operation. Around 1.30 a.m., security forces including the police’s elite YAMAM counter-terrorism unit covertly entered the camp and cornered Na’alwa in an apartment there.
According to local media, which posted pictures from the scene showing hundreds of bullet holes in the room where Na’alwa was killed and a bloodstain in the corner where he died
, troops entered the apartment with heavy fire. The IDF said Na’alwa was armed with the Carl-Gustav submachine gun which he had used to murder Yehezkel-Levengrond and Hajbi. He engaged YAMAM forces in a lethal firefight. No Israeli troops were injured.
For two months, Na’alwa eluded capture by security forces while Israel combed the northern West Bank, conducting dozens of raids, arresting and interrogating more than 100 Palestinians, and indicting several relatives and alleged accomplices.
“We knew about the house he had been hiding in, and we knew that he would fight and not surrender. We prepared for it,” said a senior officer whose name cannot be published, adding: “We are 100% active all the time. We invest a huge amount of effort into operations like this.”
The senior officer said security forces had been close to capturing Na’alwa on several occasions, but that he succeeded in escaping at the last minute. The officer said that Na’alwa did not use mobile phones or any other communications technology, making it difficult for Israeli security forces to locate him.
According to security forces, Na’alwa was planning a second terrorist attack which was prevented by Thursday’s operation.
“There is no doubt that he didn’t relax during the past two months. He was planning to fight, to carry out another attack, and we knew that we need to get him before that could happen,” the senior IDF officer said.
According to the senior officer, the IDF works every night with the Shin Bet and special forces “to deal with the challenge of terrorism” and more than 2,700 Palestinians who had been planning attacks have been arrested this year.
Na’alwa was killed just hours after a Palestinian suspected of carrying out the shooting attack
outside the West Bank settlement of Ofra on Sunday was killed by security forces north of Ramallah in the village of Surda.
He was identified by local media as Saleh Omar Barghouti, the son of senior Hamas member Omar Barghouti from the town of Kobar.
“We got one of the terrorists from the Ofra attack, but we are still working because we have to be sure we have the whole cell, so we are still in pursuit. It could be that this is it, but it may be that there are still others on the run,” the officer said.
According to him, security forces are still working to locate all cell members suspected of taking part in the attack which left seven people wounded, including a woman who gave birth by emergency cesarean section. The baby boy died four days after the attack.
“The dynamics of such a military operation is that sometimes it doesn’t take a lot of time, and sometimes it takes time but it’s not like years ago when wanted suspects live regularly. These guys didn’t. They were on the run,” he said.
In response to Thursday morning’s operations, Hamas said that “the fire of resistance in the West Bank will not die until the occupation is lifted. The death of the two soldiers proves that the option of the Palestinian people is defiance. The West Bank will continue to support the forces of resistance, and the blood of Na’alwa and Barghouti has not been spilled in vain. Hamas and the other resistance factions will continue to support activity to avenge their death.”
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