More attacks follow forces’ capture of terrorists after three-day manhunt

Perpetrators found kilometers from scene of Elad attack • Ramallah man stabs officer at Damascus Gate • 4 Palestinians try to infiltrate Tekoa, one shot dead

 Israeli security forces capturing the two terrorists who carried out an attack in Elad on May 5 that left three dead, May 8, 2022.  (photo credit: SCREENSHOT ACCORDING TO 27A OF COPYRIGHT ACT)
Israeli security forces capturing the two terrorists who carried out an attack in Elad on May 5 that left three dead, May 8, 2022.
(photo credit: SCREENSHOT ACCORDING TO 27A OF COPYRIGHT ACT)

Israeli security forces on Sunday caught the two terrorists who killed three civilians in Elad last Thursday.

“The two terrorists who murdered three Israeli civilians in the deadly attack in the city of Elad have been caught,” the IDF, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and Israel Police said in a joint statement.

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.

They were located after a massive manhunt by security forces, including special forces from IDF commando units, and using advanced technologies, intelligence, canine units, drones and helicopters.

A force consisting of Shin Bet agents and soldiers from the IDF’s Maglan commando unit and Mirol reserve unit identified suspicious objects and bloodstains in the area on Saturday, which led security forces to concentrate around a quarry. They returned to the area on Sunday morning, identified suspicious movement and arrested the two suspects.

Israel Police, Shin Bet and IDF capturing the two terrorists who carried out an attack in Elad on May 5 that left three dead (credit: Israel Police, Shin Bet, IDF).

Later Sunday evening, a security officer in the Tekoa settlement thwarted a terror attack, killing one of four Palestinians who briefly infiltrated the Gush Etzion community, according to the Judea and Samaria Call Center.

At around 8:30, the officer’s son told his father he saw some suspicious movement outside their home. The officer went out into the yard and saw four people trying to climb the fence to enter their yard, according to the call center.

The officer shot and killed one of the four Palestinians and the others fled. A knife was found on the terrorist’s body. The settlement is now in lockdown and the IDF is searching the area, the call center said.

The IDF has yet to release information on the incident.

 Suspects in the Elad ax terrorist attack,  20-year-old Tzabahi Abu Shakir (Left) and 19 year-old Assad al-Rafai (Right). (credit: ISRAEL POLICE) Suspects in the Elad ax terrorist attack, 20-year-old Tzabahi Abu Shakir (Left) and 19 year-old Assad al-Rafai (Right). (credit: ISRAEL POLICE)

“We are at the beginning of a new stage in the war on terrorism,” he said. “It is impossible to incite and rest. You cannot throw a match and run away... “the greatest task of the Israeli government is to restore personal security to the citizens of Israel.”

“I instructed the National Security Council, in coordination with the Defense Ministry, to present to the government an orderly and budgeted plan for the establishment of a national guard by the end of the month,” Bennett said. “I want to make it clear here that there is not and will not be any political consideration when it comes to the war on terrorism.”

Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev commended the security forces on the arrests.

“We will continue to pursue with determination our enemies all the time and everywhere, and we will reach them,” he said. “I congratulate the security forces on capturing the two terrorists who committed the murder in Elad. In the last two days, the best forces in the police, the Shin Bet and the IDF have worked together to get their hands on them, and so it has happened.”

Israel Police Insp.-Gen. Kobi Shabtai arrived at the scene shortly after the arrest and thanked the security forces for their work.

 IDF search for the two terrorists who murdered three people in Elad on Independence Day. (credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT) IDF search for the two terrorists who murdered three people in Elad on Independence Day. (credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)

An hour earlier, an assailant stabbed a Border Police officer at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate after the suspect was approached for questioning after raising suspicion with the officers. The attacker was shot by security forces at the scene. The officer was evacuated to Hadassah-University Medical Center on Mount Scopus in moderate condition.

The terrorists were unarmed, but the axes used in the attack were later found by security forces.

The three victims in the deadly attack on Thursday were identified as Yonatan Havakuk, 44, a father of five; Boaz Gol, 49, a father of five; and Oren Ben Yiftach, 35, a father of six from Lod.

Two other victims were no longer in life-threatening condition, the Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus in Petah Tikva said Saturday.

At the opening of the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett extended his condolences to the families of the three victims and thanked the security forces for capturing the terrorists.

“We said we would get our hands on the terrorists, and so we did,” he said, adding that nevertheless, the capture of terrorists was no longer sufficient.”

“We are at the beginning of a new stage in the war on terrorism,” he said. “It is impossible to incite and rest. You cannot throw a match and run away... “the greatest task of the Israeli government is to restore personal security to the citizens of Israel.”

“I instructed the National Security Council, in coordination with the Defense Ministry, to present to the government an orderly and budgeted plan for the establishment of a national guard by the end of the month,” Bennett said. “I want to make it clear here that there is not and will not be any political consideration when it comes to the war on terrorism.”

Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev commended the security forces on the arrests.

“We will continue to pursue with determination our enemies all the time and everywhere, and we will reach them,” he said. “I congratulate the security forces on capturing the two terrorists who committed the murder in Elad. In the last two days, the best forces in the police, the Shin Bet and the IDF have worked together to get their hands on them, and so it has happened.”

Israel Police Insp.-Gen. Kobi Shabtai arrived at the scene shortly after the arrest and thanked the security forces for their work.

“We said we would not be quiet or rest until we put our hand on them, and so it was,” he said. “Every terrorist knows that the long arm of the Israel Police and the entire security system will reach anyone who harms Israeli citizens. We are determined to continue the war on terrorism.”

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi, who on Sunday morning took part in a situational assessment about the manhunt, praised the security forces.

“Over the past weekend, IDF forces worked together with the police and the Shin Bet, leading to the capture of the murderers,” he said. “We will continue to work to stop terrorism and strengthen the security and sense of security of the State of Israel’s citizens.”

“We’re in the right direction overall,” Shabtai was quoted by Ynet as saying earlier in the day. “We assume that the terrorists are still in the area and are activating all their resources and abilities.”

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem saluted the terrorists following their capture.

“The heroes of the Elad operation stopped the Zionist entity that possesses nuclear weapons with just one foot and exposed the fragility of the Zionist security system,” he said.

The defense establishment had been working on the assumption that the two terrorists had not escaped to Palestinian territory. On Saturday, security forces expanded the manhunt from the Elad area to Rosh Ha’ayin, as well as to Arab-Israeli towns in the Wadi Ara area and in communities near the Seam Line.

Earlier on Sunday, Bar Lev held a situational assessment with Shabtai, other senior Israel Police officers, including Central District Asst.-Ch. Bitton and Operations Division Asst.-Ch. Sigal Bar-Zvi, and representatives from the IDF and Shin Bet.

“The police forces, the IDF and the Shin Bet have been working since the murders and even now to capture the terrorists who carried out the attack in Elad,” Bar Lev said. “At the same time, we will intensify our response and enforcement against those who lodge, drive and employ illegal residents in Israel.”

On Friday, the police announced a large-scale operation to arrest Palestinians who are illegally residing in Israel. The operation, led by thousands of Border Police officers, is targeting Palestinians who do not have an entry permit.

There are some 150,000 Palestinians who enter Israel legally from the West Bank. According to some estimates, another 30,000 cross through breaches in the West Bank fence each day to work.

According to an IDF Central Command senior officer, even though the terrorists have been apprehended, the IDF is prepared for additional copycat attacks by illegal workers. Thousands of troops have been redeployed to the West Bank and Seam Line area, he said, but “we don’t have enough troops to hermetically protect 430 kilometers of fence.”

“We have thwarted quite a few attacks,” the senior officer said, but “anyone who goes through the fence is a potential terrorist.”

Ben Yiftach had driven the terrorists to Elad, the senior officer said, adding that no one should help Palestinians illegally infiltrate into Israel.

“I’m sure the intentions of that driver were good, but we really need to raise awareness for all the people who work with illegal workers,” he said. “Even if they think it’s not going to happen, they need to understand. It is important that this be a warning to everyone.”

The security establishment on Sunday evening decided to reopen the crossings between Israel and the West Bank, with the exception of residents of the village of Rummama near Jenin, where the terrorists lived. The Erez crossing will also remain closed until further notice for residents of the Gaza Strip. Passage will be allowed only for humanitarian purposes.

Tovah Lazaroff and Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.