Three Israelis were killed and four others injured in a terror rampage in the West Bank city of Ariel on Tuesday.
According to the military, two civilians were killed at the “Ten” gas station in Ariel and another man was killed after he suffered multi-system injuries after being rammed in an intentional car crash near the West Bank city.
The victims were identified as 50-year-old Tamir Avihai, a father of six from the settlement of Kiryat Netafim; 36-year-old Michael Ledigin, a father of two who moved to Israel with his family five years ago and lived in Bat Yam; and 59-year-old Mordechai Ashkenazi, also from Bat Yam.
The attacks began at around 9:28 in the morning when an 18-year-old terrorist, identified as Muhammad Murad Sami Souf from the nearby village of Hares – who had a work permit to work as a cleaner in the Ariel Industrial zone – came to the entrance to the gate with a knife in his hand.
He stabbed one of two civilian security guards, moderately wounding him in the neck. The second guard fired shots in the air as the terrorist ran some 60-70 meters toward the gas station where he stabbed five civilians, killing two of them.
A terrorist arrived at the entrance gate of the Ariel Industrial Zone and stabbed civilians in the area. Other civilians were stabbed at a nearby gas station.The terrorist fled the scene and was neutralized afterwards. IDF soldiers are currently searching the area.— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) November 15, 2022
Souf then stole a car, drove onto Route 5 and crashed into another car, seriously wounding Avihai. The car he stole was destroyed in the crash; a civilian who witnessed it exited his BMW to help the wounded Israeli, allowing the terrorist to steal his car and flee the scene. Avihai, who had suffered from multi-system injuries, was pronounced dead at the scene.
With the stolen BMW, he continued toward the Shomron Crossing checkpoint on Route 5, making a U-turn when he got to the checkpoint, driving against traffic and heading back to the scene of the crash. Souf then got out of the vehicle and tried to escape by foot. At this point, he was shot and killed by civilians: a soldier on furlough and an on-duty IDF soldier.
The off-duty soldier said that he had been heading to a memorial for Shalom Sofer, who was killed in a terror attack last month, when he saw this terror attack.
“This morning while I was driving on Route 5, I noticed an unusual incident on the road. When I realized it was a terror attack, I got out of the car, identified the terrorist, and opened fire at him,” the soldier said in a video published by the IDF.
A senior IDF officer told reporters that the whole event took about 20 minutes, and raised questions about the conduct of the security guard who shot in the air instead of at the terrorist.
“This event could have ended in the industrial area,” he said, adding that “there was a single terrorist who succeeded – with quite a bit of audacity.”
While it is believed that the terrorist acted alone, the officer said that security forces are checking to see if the individual who brought him to the Ariel Industrial Zone gate knew of his intentions or if he just drove him to work like any other day.
The three critically injured civilians were transported to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva where they remain in serious but stable condition.
Following the attack, IDF troops raided the terrorist’s village and home, arresting several members of his family. Defense Minister Benny Gantz also held a situational assessment with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi and Ronen Bar, head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
Outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid sent his condolences to the families of the victims.
“We are fighting terror relentlessly and with the full capacity of the IDF, the Shin Bet and all security branches,” he said. “We have managed to dismantle [Palestinian] infrastructure and various organizations, but this is a war we must handle every day.”
Politicians' comments on the attack
Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan blamed the attack on Lapid’s outgoing government and the Palestinian Authority.
“This attack is a clear result of the lack of governance and the loss of deterrence of the outgoing government. The incoming government must act as a national government and flip the equation,” he said, adding that “the person who stands behind this wave of terror is the terrorist-in-a-suit, Abu-Mazen. The Israeli government must mark him as a security target. The Palestinian Authority is behind this wave of terror.”
מתפלל לשלום הפצועים בפיגוע הקשה באריאל ומחזק את כוחות הביטחון שפועלים בשטח.— Benjamin Netanyahu - בנימין נתניהו (@netanyahu) November 15, 2022
Far-Right Otzma Yehudit Party leader Itamar Ben-Gvir, who is demanding to be appointed Public Security minister, said that the incoming government “will do everything to eradicate terrorism and restore security to the citizens of Israel.”
The attack comes as the military continues with its Operation Break the Wave against Palestinian terrorism and as the military has seen a decrease in recent weeks in the number of attacks and warnings.
“This event is a single event [that breaks the] backdrop of a calming from the escalation that we’ve seen since March,” the senior officer said. “We will do everything necessary to make sure that this attack does not inspire others.”
Operation Break the Wave began in April after 20 people were killed in Israel during terror attacks. Since then, another 12 civilians have been killed, along with four members of the security forces. Numerous others have been injured.
Over 2,000 Palestinians have been arrested by security forces during daytime and nightly raids and over 130 have been killed in clashes with Israeli troops or while carrying out attacks against Israelis
Several Palestinian factions praised the attack, saying it underscored the failure of the Israeli security forces to subdue the “resistance.”
They described the attack as a “heroic operation.”
The Palestinian Authority had not comment on the attack by Tuesday afternoon.
In some parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestinians were documented celebrating the attack by handing out sweets to passersby and drivers.
Hamas spokesman Abdel Latif al-Qanou said that “the operation demonstrates the ability of the Palestinian people to continue their revolution and defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque from daily incursions.”
He was referring to routine visits by Jews to the mosque compound on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
Hamas and other Palestinian groups, including the PA, regularly describe the visits as violent incursions by Jewish extremists.
“The continuous aggression against the Palestinians and the daily storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque will be met with the expansion of the resistance’s strikes,” Qanou said.
Senior Hamas official Hisham Qassem said that “the heroic stabbing operation confirms that the Palestinian resistance is continuing.”
Qassem claimed that the recent attacks were a sign of the failure of the Israeli security forces in crushing the terrorists.
“The escalation of resistance operations in its various forms carries a clear message to the occupation that its threats won’t undermine us,” he said. “Instead, the threats will increase the resolve of our people and make them more willing to challenge the occupation.”
Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the second largest terrorist group in the Gaza Strip after Hamas, welcomed the “heroic operation.”
In a statement, the terror group said: “We bless this bold operation in the Israeli settlement of Ariel, which came as a natural and legitimate response to the escalating crimes of the occupation against our people.”
The attack illustrates the Palestinians’ determination to pursue the “resistance with full force,” it said.
Islamic Jihad official Muhammad al-Harazin said the attack “proves the ability of our people to continue their revolution and defend the Islamic holy sites.” He also sought to establish a link between the attack and Jewish tours of the Temple Mount.
The PLO’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) also hailed the attack, saying that the Palestinians will continue their “resistance.”