After four weeks of closures, pursuits and arrests, security forces overnight Tuesday surrounded and killed Muhammad Fakih, 29, the terrorist who shot dead Rabbi Michael Mark and wounded his wife and two children in a July 1 drive-by attack on Route 60.
As units from the IDF’s Etzion Brigade – led by Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and Israel Police units – surrounded the West Bank village of Tzurif near Kfar Etzion, Fakih barricaded himself inside a house and opened fire on security personnel with a Kalashnikov rifle, the army reported.
“In response, the forces returned fire and launched a number of anti-tank missiles at the structure in which he had barricaded himself,” the IDF said. The troops then bulldozed the house shielding him, confirming his death.
A subsequent search revealed his firearm and a grenade.
A Palestinian woman who was lightly wounded by cross-fire was taken to the hospital.
Fakih was previously an Islamic Jihad operative and had plotted terrorist attacks for which he served time in an Israeli prison, where he switched allegiance to Hamas.
He then completed his prison time and was set free.
The heavy exchange of fire follows several arrests made by security forces in recent weeks, which had been kept under wraps.
Earlier this month, security forces arrested Dura resident Muhammad Amira, 38, a member of the Palestinian Authority national security force. After the arrest, Amira confessed to acting as the driver during the July 1 attack, while Fakih fired shots from the moving vehicle at the Mark family on Route 60, near Otniel, the Shin Bet said.
Fakih’s brother, Tzahiv, is also in Israeli custody. He confessed to helping the gunman hide and stowing the rifle after the attack.
The brothers’ uncle, Ma’az Fakih, was also arrested, and said during questioning that he had hosted Fakih at his home in the days after the shooting attack. Additional members of Fakih’s family have been arrested on suspicion of assisting him and enabling him to hide.
“We were shocked to learn that one of the terrorists had worked for the Palestinian Authority, and that others had been known to our security forces and had been freed from jail,” said a member of the Mark family. “We expect answers to these facts.”
South Hebron Hills Regional Council head Yochai Damri thanked the IDF for its efforts, but said, “This does not makes us feel safer, nor will it prevent the next attack.”
In the last nine months, Palestinian terrorists have killed three Israelis, aside from Mark, on the same stretch of Route 60 in the South Hebron Hills. Damri counts 25 fatalities from terrorist attacks that have occurred on that road in the last 22 years.
Following Mark’s killing, the IDF placed the greater Hebron area under closure, as part of an effort to thwart future attacks and facilitate intelligence-gathering.
In July, the IDF sent two backup battalions to the West Bank, and beefed up the number of units guarding roads and communities.
The last time Hebron was placed under closure was in June 2014, following the kidnap and murder of three Israeli teenagers by a local Hamas cell.
Nahal Brigade commander Col. Amos Hacohen, who participated in the raid, said that his forces are operating nightly in the West Bank to ensure maximum security for Israeli residents.
“I am happy as a commander that my troops were able to help close a circle with regard to the [Mark] murder,” he told Army Radio. “
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