Security forces continued to search Sunday night for the terrorist who shot two Israelis to death and moderately wounded a third in a terror attack at the Barkan Industrial Park in the Samaria region of the West Bank on Sunday morning.
The fatalities were identified as Kim Levengrond-Yehezkel, 29, of Rosh Ha’ayin, and Ziv Hajbi, 35, from Rishon Lezion.
This is the first terror attack in the park – which employs both Israelis and Palestinians – and is considered to be an oasis of coexistence.
The suspect, identified as Ashraf Walid Suleiman Na’alwa, 23, from the village of Shuweika near the West Bank Palestinian city of Tulkarm, had no previous security related history, IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis told reporters.
Na’alwa had a permit to work at the Barkan park. He had been employed as an electrician for the past seven months at a factory run by the Alon Group. However, he had not come to work for the past few weeks, according to Manelis.
Na’alwa came back to work early Sunday morning, at around 7, entering the factory building with a semi-automatic Carl Gustav rifle hidden in his bag, which he left on the ground floor.
According to KAN news, he fixed an electrical problem on the second floor, where he saw Levengrond-Yehezkel and Hajbi already at work.
He then went downstairs to get handcuffs and his bag, and returned, fatally shooting his two fellow employees. According to Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan, Na’alwa bound Levengrond-Yehezkel before shooting her.
A third woman, 54, who survived the attack, heard a noise and went to see what was happening. Na’alwa shot at her as well, moderately wounding her, but she was able to hide under a table. He shot at two other women and one man before fleeing.
Footage from security cameras captured Na’alwa running away from the scene with a gun in his hand.
Magen David Adom Paramedics David Baruhi and Neria Tekoa issued a statement after the attack describing what they saw at the scene.
“We found complete chaos,” the paramedics said. “We were told that there were injured inside the building, and upon entering, we found a man and woman in one of the rooms, where they were unresponsive with no pulse and not breathing. Following a medical assessment, we were forced to pronounce them dead.
“We searched the scene and found a 54-year-old woman under one of the tables. She was fully responsive with a gunshot wound to her upper body. With the help of MDA EMT Hadas Wilps, we extricated her and provided lifesaving medical treatment including hemorrhage control and medications, and we evacuated her to Beilinson [Hospital in Petah Tikva] with severe yet stable injuries,” the paramedics said.
“During the evacuation, she was interacting with us, and was able to recount the incident. She also requested that we notify her family, which we did,” the paramedics said.
The IDF said it is looking into the security breach that enabled the terrorist to bring a weapon into the industrial park.
Hadashot TV reported that the gunman also left a suicide note with a friend who worked at the same factory several days ago. The friend, who did not report the letter, was arrested by security forces who are investigating whether the attack could have been prevented.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot later toured the factory and held a situational assessment with the head of the Central Command, Maj.-Gen. Nadav Padan, after which it was decided to send additional troops from the central command and Samaria Brigade to the area.
The Border Police’s counterterrorism Yamam unit as well as troops from the IDF’s elite Duvdevan, Lotar and Oketz units, and Shin Bet forces are participating in the manhunt for Na’alwa, and entered his village Sunday afternoon.
Clashes broke out in Shuweika on Sunday night as troops arrived at Na’alwa’s home. Palestinians threw Molotov cocktails and rocks at troops. No injuries were reported. Troops from the Menashe regional brigade mapped the building ahead of a possible demolition order. The terrorist’s brother was reportedly among the suspects arrested and interrogated. The detainees were transferred to the Shin Bet (Israel Security Service) to establish whether they knew of Na’alwa’s plans.
Checkpoints in the Samaria region were closed as part of the manhunt for the shooter.
The IDF stationed additional troops into the West Bank in the aftermath of the attacks. The IDF spokesman noted it has confiscated 330 weapons to date in 2018, 100 of which were seized in the last month alone.
Initially there was some confusion as to whether or not the shooting was a revenge killing or a terror attack. Posts on the shooter’s Facebook page helped the IDF declare it a terrorist attack. Earlier in the day Na’alwa wrote he was “waiting for [Allah].”
While the IDF believes that he acted alone, both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad applauded the attack.
“The Hamas movement and the Palestinian people everywhere praise the heroic operation near the Ariel settlement,” Hamas said in a statement. “We applaud this heroic operation, and affirm that it comes as a natural response to the Israeli occupation’s crimes at the expense of the Palestinian people.”
Minister Of Defense Avigdor Liberman wrote on his Twitter account that it was only a matter of time until the IDF catches the assailant.
“The IDF and the security forces are conducting a wide-scale hunt for the terrorist who committed the serious attack in Barkan, and it is only a matter of time before we get him into our hands,” he tweeted.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened the weekly cabinet meeting by sending his condolences to the victims’ families.
“The security forces are in pursuit of the reprehensible murderer. I am certain that they will apprehend him, and I am also certain that we will deal with him to the fullest extent of the law and quickly,” Netanyahu said.
President Reuven Rivlin said, “I am shocked and saddened by this morning’s terrible terrorist attack at the Barkan industrial area. Our hearts are with the families of those who were killed, and our prayers are with those who are injured. This was not only an attack on innocent people going about their daily lives, it was also an attack on the possibility of Israelis and Palestinians coexisting peacefully.
“I call on the Palestinian leadership to condemn this murderous attack and to use the forces at their disposal to capture the terrorist and those who aided him.
“Our thanks to the medics who gave quick and live-saving assistance, and to the IDF and security forces who are ensuring the perpetrators are apprehended. We will not rest until every one of them is brought to justice,” Rivlin said.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.
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