Elad terrorists continue to evade capture, over 48 hours later

The search for the two terrorists has expanded to the area of Wadi Ara and other Arab communities

 Israeli police officers at a temporary police checkpoint, during the search for the terrorist who murdered three people earlier tonight, near Elad, May 5, 2022. (photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)
Israeli police officers at a temporary police checkpoint, during the search for the terrorist who murdered three people earlier tonight, near Elad, May 5, 2022.
(photo credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)

Over 48 hours since the deadly attack in Elad, Israeli security forces have expanded their search for the two Palestinians who killed three Israeli civilians in the city of Elad.

Police identified the two suspects as 19 year-old As’sad al-Rifa'i and 20-year-old Subhi Abu Shqeir, both from Rumana in the Jenin area of the West Bank.

On Saturday, security forces expanded the manhunt from the Elad area to Rosh Ha’ayin as well as to Arab towns in the Wadi Ara area and in communities near the Seam Line. The working assumption of the defense establishment is that  the terrorists are still in Israel and could carry out another terror attack.

As part of the search, the Shin Bet, Israel police and the IDF are using advanced monitoring and detection technologies as well as aircraft, helicopters and canine units. 

Security services released their pictures and have asked for the public’s help in locating them.

 Suspects for the Elad ax terrorist attack,  20-year-old Tzabahi Abu Shakir (Left) and 19 year-old Assad al-Rafai (Right). (credit: Israel Police/Composite image by Jerusalem Post Staff) Suspects for the Elad ax terrorist attack, 20-year-old Tzabahi Abu Shakir (Left) and 19 year-old Assad al-Rafai (Right). (credit: Israel Police/Composite image by Jerusalem Post Staff)

The three victims in the deadly attack were identified as 44-year-old Yonatan Habakuk, a father of five, 40-year-old Boaz Gol, a father of five and 35 year-old Oren Ben Yiftach a father of six from Lod. Together they left behind 16 children.

They were all buried on Saturday with thousands in attendance.

Seven other people were injured in the attack, one in critical but stable condition and another in serious condition. Another person was moderately wounded, a fourth was lightly wounded and the rest were lightly injured or suffering from shock.

On Friday evening Israel Police revealed that Ben Yiftach drove the two terrorists to Elad after they illegally crossed into Israel. He was reported by Israeli media to have driven the pair to Elad at least 10 times.

According to Channel 12, the two terrorists called Ben Yiftach on Thursday and asked him to drive him to the city where they were working on the renovation of a local synagogue. When they got to the area, they stabbed him to death.

They then attacked Havakuk and Gol before running to the city’s Amphitheater park where many families were spending the evening celebrating the end of Independence Day. At the entrance to the park they encountered a security guard, who tried to shoot them before being struck and being seriously wounded.

The terrorists then attacked two more people before fleeing the scene with their weapons in a car.

One eyewitness told Israeli media that he fought off the attackers by throwing hot cholent (slow-cooked stew with meat and beans) on one of them.

“We were eating cholent in the car and the terrorists, carrying huge axes, came on both sides of the car. My friend threw his boiling hot cholent on one of the terrorists and he got burned and stopped. In the meantime, I grabbed the end of his ax and managed to push him away,” he was quoted as saying.

According to Palestinian reports, the father of one of the attackers, Emad Subhi Abu Shqeir, was arrested by Israeli security forces. Army Radio reported that the two had not been involved in prior terror activities and were not thought to be affiliated with any terror organization. 

Following the attack, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with senior officials of the defense establishment for a situational assessment. 

“Our enemies have embarked on a murderous campaign against Jews, wherever they are. Their purpose is to break our spirit but they will fail,” said Bennett on Friday morning. “We will lay our hands on the terrorists and on those who support them. And they will pay the price.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi and decided to extend the closure that was imposed on the West Bank and Gaza Strip for Memorial and Independence Day until Monday, May 9th. An additional situational assessment will be held by senior officials on Monday.

It was also decided to reinforce troops in the West Bank even further.

Last Saturday, Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar called on Palestinians to use guns, cleavers, knives or axes against Israelis and told them “not to wait for a decision by anyone” before carrying out individual attacks.

On Saturday, Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Mayadeen TV reported that Palestinian terror groups threatened to launch terrorist attacks inside Israeli cities if the government resumes the policy of targeted killings after reports in Israeli media that officials were considering killing Sinwar.

“The resistance will burn the cities of the center [of Israel] and will direct massive missile strikes on Gush Dan if it carries out its threats,” the report said, adding that the terror groups “informed the mediators that the return of the assassination policy means the return of bombings inside the occupied cities.”

The attack in Elad marks the most recent of six deadly attacks since the end of March that have killed 18 Israelis.

In an attempt to bring the current wave of violence to an end, the IDF has reinforced troops in the West Bank by 12 battalions for a total of 25 battalions. Last week the IDF announced the decision to recruit six reserve battalions in the coming weeks after a situational assessment.

The huge boost in troops allows the military to carry out offensive operations in the West Bank and deploy troops along the security fence in order to prevent Palestinians from crossing into Israel through holes in the fence.

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

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