A manhunt is underway in the West Bank for a Palestinian who killed an IDF soldier and critically injured two other Israelis in two attacks outside the West Bank settlement of Ariel on Sunday morning.
Additional troops, including special forces and officers from the Shin Bet and Israel police, were deployed to search for the attacker who fled in the direction of the Palestinian village of Burqin.
Authorities also briefly ordered the gate to the nearby Barkan industrial zone to be closed as well nearby Israeli communities to shut their entrances. The IDF also sealed off the entrances and exits to three local Palestinian villages, Jamma’in, Kifl Haris and Deir Istiya near Nablus, in an effort to find the perpetrator.
IDF soldiers search for the Ariel attack terrorist (Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
"We are in pursuit of the terrorists at two points in the Ariel area,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “I am certain that they will apprehend them and we will deal with them to the fullest extent of the law as we have done in all of the recent incidents."
According to IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis, at around 9:45 a.m., a Palestinian terrorist stabbed 19 year-old Sgt. Gal Keidan at the Ariel junction and stole his weapon and shot him before he shot toward civilians at the junction, hitting three cars passing through.
An Israeli civilian, 47 year-old Rabbi Ahiad Ettinger from the settlement of Eli was critically injured after he was struck by bullets while driving through the junction. Ettinger, has 12 children and heads Oz and Emunah Yeshiva in south Tel Aviv.
Keidan, from Beersheba was a combat soldier in the Artillery Corps’ 334th “Fire” brigade and who was posthumously promoted to the rank of St.-Sargent. The youngest of three siblings born to parents who immigrated to Israel in the 1970s from the former Soviet Union, he will be buried Monday at 11 AM in the military cemetery in Beersheba.
According to the military, after carrying out the attack in Ariel the attacker stole a car from a civilian who fled the attack and escaped the scene. The terrorist then drove toward the Gitai Avishar junction, where he carried out a drive-by shooting injuring another soldier who was guarding a hitchhiking station.
The injured were evacuated to Beilinson Hospital for medical treatment, with one in critical condition with a head injury and the other in a very serious condition with a stomach injury.
"I happened to be passing by the Ariel junction with the car I use to teach driving lessons, when I happened upon the large amount commotion at the Ariel junction," MDA EMT Hananel Hess said. "I saw soldiers running and heard gunshots. I understood that this was out of the ordinary and I requested that MDA teams respond. Once the shooting stopped, I exited my vehicle and I saw an approximately 20-year-old patient lying unconscious on the ground with gunshot wounds to his upper body. We assessed him and found him to be in critical condition."
According to Hebrew media reports, while there were four soldiers on duty at the Ariel Junction when the attacks began, none of them -including the soldier who had been standing next to Kaidan- opened fire on the assailant.
The commander of the force, who was stationed nearby with two other soldiers, opened fire on the Palestinian and reportedly injured him in the shoulder.
The Gitai Avishar junction on Highway 5 is a central intersection of the highway which links Ariel to central Israel, with hundreds of Palestinian workers traveling through it daily.
Both Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror groups welcomed the attacks, but did not claim responsibility.
The attack in Ariel was a “response to the crimes of the Israeli occupation, and to the events in Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Hamas said in a statement, adding that “all the acts of oppression and attempts to undermine the resistance will not succeed in defeating the will of our people or preventing them from following the path of jihad."
PIJ said that the attack “was carried out in order to move the compass and bring the struggle to its natural location.We welcome the attack and salute the rebel heroes in the West Bank.”
Tovah Lazaroff and Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.