Blood on banknotes, a piece of pita bread and a suspicious lump of grass led Israeli security forces on Sunday to the two Palestinian terrorists who killed three Israelis last week in Elad.
Soldiers, police officers and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) agents caught the two suspects – As’sad al-Rifai, 19, and Emad Subhi Abu Shqeir, 20, both from Rummama, near Jenin – in a forested area close to Elad and Nahshonim Park.
Lieutenant Y., a deputy platoon commander from the Maglan unit, told reporters he had been searching for the terrorists since Thursday evening and noticed an “unusual lump of grass” on Sunday morning.
“We identified what looked like a suspicious body in a bush, and as I approached closer, I saw the body was breathing, and I called for backup support, and we surprised them,” Y. said. “They were exhausted and did not resist arrest.”
According to an IDF Central Command senior officer, some 800 soldiers took part in the manhunt, including from the Egoz, Maglan and Duvdevan Special Forces units, the Ghost unit, the Lotar counterterrorism unit and the Mirol tracking unit.
“The terrorists came from our sector, and we bear responsibility,” he said.
The security forces had set up a joint command center near Nahshonim, the officer said, adding that the area where the terrorists were caught had been searched several times during the manhunt.
When the bloodstained money was found on Saturday, it was the “last hint” that the terrorists were in the area, the senior officer said. Confirmation came at 2 a.m. with the results of a DNA test.
“The terrorists were exhausted, and that is how we thought we would find them,” he said.
Y said he had searched the area several times during the manhunt, and when he located the terrorists, they were hidden under a bush and did not have any food, water or cellphones.
The terrorists did not talk at first “because they were totally surprised,” but the security forces were able to identify them, Y. said.
In a video from the scene, Rifai is seen identifying himself and his accomplice. An officer asked him what he was doing in the area, and he said: “An operation, the Elad operation.”
The officer asked him what happened in the operation, and he said: “I don’t know exactly. We hit people.”