Three Israelis dead, one wounded in West Bank stabbing attack

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot toured the site of the attack on Saturday morning.

Three Israelis were killed in a stabbing attack in Halamish, July 21, 2017 (Reuters)
The Salomon family had sat down for Friday night Shabbat dinner in their home in Halamish. They had invited their friends to come later that evening for a celebration to mark the birth of a grandson when suddenly a Palestinian terrorist infiltrated their home, and stabbed Yosef, 70, and two of his children - Elad, 36 and Chaya, 46 - to death.
Yosef’s wife, Tovah, 68, was wounded and hospitalized at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. The funerals of the deceased are expected to take place Sunday.
It took only 15 minutes from the moment the terrorist, Omar al-Abed, climbed over the fence around the settlement of Halamish to the moment he was killed by an off-duty soldier, IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis said on Saturday.
The initial investigation into the attack determined that Abed, 19, carried out the assault alone.
He walked three kilometers from his village of Kobar to Halamish armed with a knife he bought a few days earlier. Carrying a backpack with a Koran, wallet and bottle of water, he arrived at the family’s home, close to the entrance of the settlement.
He is believed to have “purified himself” with the bottle of water before entering the home and stabbing to death Salomon and his two adult children.
The attack ended when Abed was shot in the stomach by the victims’ neighbor, an off-duty Oketz unit soldier, who heard screams from the home next door and shot through the window of the house, seriously wounding the attacker. Abed was later hospitalized and is now in the hands of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
Manelis said: “It was a horrific, murderous, attack. The house is full of blood,” adding that the photographs showing the aftermath of deadly attack don’t show the entire picture.
“He decided in the last two days that he wanted to carry out an attack,” Manelis said.
While it appeared Abed carried it out alone, Manelis said security forces were still looking into possible accomplices.
The terrorist’s brother was arrested on Saturday to determine whether people around the attacker knew of his intentions.
Manelis confirmed that Abed triggered the warning system when he infiltrated the settlement by climbing over its security fence. Security forces are now investigating how he was able to carry out the attack.
IDF forces in action following deadly attack in Halamish, July 22, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
IDF forces in action following deadly attack in Halamish, July 22, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
There is also a broader effort underway to prevent further deterioration of the situation on the ground, which Manelis said is worsening with the trend of increased support for attacks among Palestinians.
“There is more and more support for violence as the days go on and more potential attackers, Manelis said, stressing a new aspect that hasn’t been evident in other attacks since the wave of violence broke out two years ago.
“What is different now is that there is more focus on religion, especially in the last few days, which we didn’t see before. Such a focus makes it more dangerous because it has more support in the Arab world,” he said.
“There is more consensus and support for this attack among Palestinians and more legitimization on the streets,” he continued, adding that “there is a dangerous dynamic now and we are working to prevent another attack like the one on Friday night.”
A senior IDF officer stated that Abed was affiliated with Hamas but was not a member and had bought a knife in the last two days “with the intent to cause harm in response to the events surrounding the Temple Mount.”
The Gaza-based terrorist group praised the attack as “heroic” and said it was because of “Israel’s attacks on the rights of our people in Jerusalem and at the Aksa Mosque.”
Following the attack, Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot held an emergency meeting to discuss the situation. It was decided that the IDF would send additional troops to the West Bank to reinforce forces already there, in addition to the five extra battalions placed on alert on Thursday.
The added security measures come amid tensions surrounding the installation of metal detectors on the Temple Mount complex following the deadly terrorist stabbing attack that took the lives of two Israeli police officers 10 days ago.
Eisenkot and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman visited Halamish on Saturday morning, just hours after the attack, and called on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to condemn it.
“We demand an unequivocal condemnation of the massacre that took place last night in which an innocent family, who did not endanger anyone, was massacred during their Shabbat meal,” said Liberman.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot is briefed by senior IDF officers at the scene of the attack in Halamish, July 22, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot is briefed by senior IDF officers at the scene of the attack in Halamish, July 22, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
Eisenkot and Liberman, who were accompanied by the head of Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai, as well as the head of Military Intelligence Maj.- Gen. Herzl Halevi, were given a situational briefing by the commander of the IDF’s Central Command Maj.-Gen. Roni Numa, as well as by the brigade commander and Shin Bet authorities.
Liberman instructed security forces to speed up the procedures to demolish the homes of the terrorists who carried out th deadly attack in Jerusalem’s Old City, as well as the home of the Halamish attacker.
He also asked that the presence of IDF troops on roads and in sensitive locations in the West Bank be increased.
Earlier on Saturday Eisenkot also met with the commander of the Judea and Samaria Division, Brig.-Gen. Lior Carmeli.
Israeli troops raided Abed’s home in Kobar on Saturday morning, carrying out extensive weapons searches. They arrested his brother and mapped his home in preparation for the demolition. In addition, troops, special units and the Shin Bet encircled the village, allowing residents to leave only for humanitarian reasons.
President Reuven Rivlin called the attack heartbreaking, reaching out to the family and praising the IDF soldier who ended the killing spree.
“The entire world and the leadership in the region, in particular, must cooperate with Israel in the war against terrorism and incitement,” said Rivlin. “Those who do not uproot terrorism cooperate with it and contribute to the region’s deterioration in an unnecessary war of blood that no one wanted.”
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.