Soldier, civilian seriously injured in shooting attack on a bus in Jordan Valley

Two suspects, including one with an Israeli ID was arrested nearby after their truck caught fire.

 A bus after a shooting attack at the Jordan Valley (photo credit: BUS DRIVER'S UNION)
A bus after a shooting attack at the Jordan Valley
(photo credit: BUS DRIVER'S UNION)

Two Palestinians were arrested after they opened fire on a bus carrying troops from the Kfir Brigade in the Jordan Valley, injuring several soldiers, including one seriously.

According to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit and Magen David Adom, five soldiers and a civilian were injured in the attack.

One soldier was seriously injured with neck wounds. At least two people were moderately injured, including the bus driver who had gunshot wounds to his face. Medics and paramedics treated the soldier and civilian driver at the scene before evacuating them by helicopter to Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa.

Another three people who were lightly injured by glass shrapnel were treated at the scene before being evacuated to Emek Medical Center in Afula, where they were treated and released.

According to a senior officer investigating the attack, the bus was coming from Tel Aviv to brigade regional headquarters when it was hit, first by a flammable substance and then by gunfire.

The officer said the military was still investigating whether the terrorists – identified by Palestinian media as Muhammed and Walid Turkman from the Jenin area in the northern West Bank – knew it was a military bus.

The three suspects – all of whom are members of the same family – were driving a pickup truck with Israeli license plates. They followed the bus for several minutes before opening fire toward the bus’s left side and windshield.

“We saw two gunshot victims outside of the bus who were being treated by IDF medics and other people who were at the scene,” said senior MDA EMT Matti Carm. “One was a 60-year-old male, and another... was younger. They were fully conscious and communicating with us.”.

The bus was driving on Route 578 from B’qaot to B’qaot junction near Hamra when it was struck by bullets from a passing car. The bus windshield showed more than a dozen bullet holes.

According to a senior officer, the suspects overtook the bus and opened fire on it. When the bus pulled over, the suspects attempted to throw Molotov cocktails at it to set it on fire.

A unit commander, seeing that the driver had been injured, jumped to the driver’s seat and brought the bus to a halt. He and other soldiers then fired out of the bus window toward the fleeing truck, which drove about two kilometers before fuel that was being carried inside ignited.

Two Palestinian suspects arrested

Two of the suspects jumped from the truck. The driver – the father of one of suspects and who holds Israeli citizenship – remained inside for another 100-150 meters before jumping out and escaping, the senior officer said.

The two suspects and the automatic rifles believed to have been used in the attack were found by a tracker from the 417th Jordan Valley Brigade. The suspects were said to have been seriously injured from the fire. They were transferred to the burn unit at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer by the Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency] for interrogation.

Corporal S., a soldier in the Lions of the Jordan Valley Battalion who helped locate the suspects, said troops launched the manhunt for the suspects within minutes.

“Within a few minutes, we arrived at the location and began searching. Through my binoculars, we identified two suspects from a distance and we operated to stop the suspects and apprehend them for further investigation,” he said.

Forces are continuing to search for additional suspects who fled the scene. According to the senior officer, it was only ofter the two terrorists were captured that they understood a third had escaped.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid left a cabinet meeting at the time of the attack to receive an update.

“I wish a speedy recovery to those injured in the shooting attack in the Jordan Valley,” he later wrote on his Twitter account. “Security forces acted quickly and decisively to treat the wounded and apprehend the terrorists. We will continue and put our hands on anyone who tries to harm the citizens and soldiers of the State of Israel.”

“We will continue and put our hands on anyone who tries to harm the citizens and soldiers of the State of Israel”

Prime Minister Yair Lapid

Defense Minister Benny Gantz wished a full recovery to those injured in the attack and praised the troops who arrested the suspects.

“Security forces immediately began a manhunt and got their hands on the suspects in a quick and professional manner,” he wrote on Twitter. “We will continue to increase our targeted operations against terrorism in the West Bank.”

There has been an increase in shooting attacks against Israeli vehicles and IDF troops in the West Bank. The shooting on Sunday was the 11th attack in the past month.

Buses used in the West Bank are usually bulletproof. However, that’s not the case in the Jordan Valley as there have rarely been attacks there. Last month, a bus traveling near Ramallah was fired on, but no injuries were reported.

West Bank tensions rise as Israel's Operation Break the Wave continues

This was the sixth terrorist attack in less than one week. On Friday, an IDF soldier was moderately wounded after he was stabbed by a Palestinian near Kiryat Arba.

According to the senior officer, the IDF had not seen such an attack in “a long time.”

“From Operation Guardian of the Walls [in May 2020] until now, there has been a relatively high level of violence, but such an event where there is a shooting attack from a passing vehicle is a rare event that we haven’t seen in a long time, especially in the Jordan Valley,” he said.

“We are in a very complex period that has not yet ended. Every month we arrest terrorists who could carry out attacks like these. This is a fact. We manage to thwart some attacks, but sometimes some slip through.”

Despite the increased number of violent attacks, the officer said the military would continue Operation Break the Wave and not launch a more extensive operation.

The increase in violence comes as the IDF continues to crack down on Palestinian terrorism in the West Bank, with a focus on the northern West Bank cities of Jenin and Nablus.

Troops arrested three wanted suspects overnight in Nablus, Kfar Shabtin and Umm Salmuna near Hebron.

Palestinian terrorist groups welcomed the attack and in a statement. Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said it showed that Operation Break the Wave “has proven to be a failure.”

The attack, he said, “unequivocally confirms that all attempts by the occupation to stop this rising tide of revolutionary resistance in the West Bank will not succeed. The resistance is ready and even developing.

“The operation confirms the complete failure of the Zionist security system, which said that there are only some areas and outposts that witness action by the resistance, but this time the operation came from a place that the occupation did not expect it,” Qassem added.

Roman Meitav contributed to this report.