The United States Department of State on Tuesday condemned the terrorist attack against Israelis near Eli in the West Bank and expressed concern about escalating violence in the area in recent weeks.
"The United States condemns the terrorist attack against Israelis near Eli in the West Bank today. We express our deepest condolences to the families of those killed and wish the injured a speedy recovery," Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller said.
"We are also concerned about the continuation of violence in Israel and the West Bank in recent weeks that has killed and injured Palestinian and Israeli civilians. We will continue to work with Israel and the Palestinian Authority to promote steps towards de-escalation."
The statement from Miller followed a controversial statement earlier in the day from US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides in which he was slammed for drawing an equivalence between terrorists and victims of the Eli terrorist attack. The statement drew rare criticism from Israeli Ambassador to the US Mike Herzog.
“Deeply concerned about the civilian deaths and injuries that have occurred in the West Bank these past 48 hours, including that of minors,” Nides tweeted several hours after the deadly attack in which two Palestinian terrorists murdered four Israelis.
“Praying for the families as they mourn the loss of loved ones, or tend to those injured.”
In response, Herzog tweeted that “any attempt of a so-called ‘balanced’ condemnation is misguided and disrespectful to the memory of the victims. In recent months, terror activities in the northern part of the West Bank have escalated as the Palestinian Authority has lost effective security control.”
Earlier this week, Israel raided the homes of terrorists in Jenin, killing six, some of whom were under 18 but were involved in terrorist activities.
Four dead in West Bank shooting attack, Hamas claims responsibility
Four Israelis were killed and another four were wounded in a shooting attack by two terrorists at a gas station outside of the West Bank settlement of Eli on Tuesday afternoon.
One of the victims was identified as Elisha Antman, an 18-year-old resident of the town of Eli. Another was identified as Harel Masoud, a 21-year-old resident of Yad Binyamin. A third was later identified as Ofer Feirman, another Eli resident aged 63. The fourth was identified as Nachman Shmuel Mordoff, 17, a resident of Achiya.
Two terrorists entered a restaurant next to the gas station and shot several people there before going to the gas station and shooting another person. At that point, an armed civilian shot and killed one of them and the other fled.
Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), IDF and Border Police forces shot and killed the second terrorist after locating him and attempting to arrest him a short time later. They tracked him as he tried to escape and eventually found his car abandoned, according to a joint statement. When he was located, they attempted to arrest him, but he resisted arrest and was killed, the statement said.
Initial intelligence reports suggested a strong likelihood that the terrorists were associated with Hamas, IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Daniel Hagari said. A short time later, a Hamas official said the gunmen belonged to Hamas’s military wing, the Izzadin al-Qassam brigades. The attack was in response to the IDF operation on Monday in Jenin, he told Al Jazeera.
Lahav Harkov and Yonah Jeremy Bob contributed to this report.