Preschool teacher Batsheva Nigri, 42, was shot to death in front of her 12-year-old daughter on Monday morning on Route 60 in the West Bank after hitching a ride from her Beit Hagai home to nearby Kiryat Arba.
Nigri, a mother of three, grew up in Efrat.
The driver, Aryeh Gottlieb, 39, also of Beit Hagai, was in serious but stable condition from gunshot wounds after undergoing surgery at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba.
Nigri’s daughter was unharmed and alerted emergency services.
Two terrorists drove in front of the victims’ car, cutting it off while it slowed down at the Beit Hagai intersection. They then shot at the victims from close range, spraying their vehicle with at least 20 bullets, after which they fled the scene.
Soldiers at an IDF guard post heard the attack, which lasted a couple of minutes, but it was over before they could respond, OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Yehuda Fuchs said.
The terrorists fled in the direction of nearby Hebron after ditching and burning their vehicle.
Nigri was the fouth Israeli to die in a terrorist attack this month and the 28th victim this year. Eleven of the terrorist attacks took place in the West Bank, but this was the first fatality this year in the South Hebron Hills.
“We are in the midst of a wave of terrorism that we have not known in a long time,” Fuchs said.
Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, part of the Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah faction, claimed responsibility for the attack and said it was “a natural response to the crimes of the occupation.”
It took place on the 54th anniversary of an attack on al-Aqsa Mosque by a Western tourist, it said.
The IDF put a complete closure around Hebron and the surrounding villages, including Halhoul. Soldiers set up roadblocks and were searching for the terrorists, including in the nearby Gush Etzion bloc.
It simultaneously continued to search for the Huwara terrorist.
The IDF said it was concerned that the South Hebron Hills and Huwara attacks over the past few days could signal a new escalation of terrorism.
On Saturday, a terrorist fatally shot a father and son who were visiting the Palestinian town of Huwara in northern Samaria.
About 80% of the anti-terrorism focus has been in the Jenin and Nablus areas in the northern West Bank, where many of the terrorist cells that planned the attacks have been located.
הפיגוע בדרום הר חברון: ילדה בת 6 הייתה במכונית שלעברה ירו המחבלים, היא לא נפגעה | כל הפרטים >>> https://t.co/3gx2igl7nt@ItayBlumental pic.twitter.com/M5UlRj0Qmt— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) August 21, 2023
While there have been attacks in the southern parts of the West Bank, they have been more the exception than the rule, with most of the IDF’s 23 battalions – almost double the number of battalions securing the area in quieter times – dedicated to cracking down in the northern part.The spike in terrorist attacks began in 2021, and the IDF launched Operation Break the Wave in March 2022 to rout out terrorist cells. It launched Operation Home and Garden in Jenin this past July 3-5.The IDF has rejected accusations that it is not acting proactively enough against terrorism, saying it is using a variety of weaponry and intelligence methods, including drones in Jenin.“The IDF is working daily to stop terrorist attacks,” Fuchs said.“No one is limiting us” from striking back forcibly against terrorism, and the IDF was using all the appropriate tools available, he said.“We have been through things like this before, and we will still get through this,” he added.The recent spike in terrorism was not due to an inability of the IDF to adapt, Fuchs said, adding that the IDF updates its efforts regularly and adjusts where necessary.
Regarding the notion that this could be a sudden shift to terrorism in the southern West Bank, he said even though there were few successful terrorist plots in the south in 2022-2023, there still have been many attempts that security forces have stopped.“We will restore security to all the residents,” Fuchs said.