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May 6, 2022 8:49 am
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Israeli Security Forces Launch Manhunt for Two Palestinians Suspected of Killing Three in Terror Stabbing

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Israeli security personnel guard the area where at least three people were killed in what police suspect was a Palestinian attack in Elad, on Israeli Independence Day, in Israel, May 5, 2022. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Israeli security forces on Friday launched a massive manhunt for two Palestinians identified as the suspects who carried out the terrorist stabbing attack in the central city of Elad, murdering three young fathers and wounding several more Israeli civilians.

The three Israeli men “killed yesterday in the brutal attack in Elad, left 16 orphaned children behind,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Friday.

Large forces of the Israel Police and military have been mobilized to locate the two Palestinian suspects, identified as Assad Yosef Assad Al-Rafa’i, 19, and Subhi Emad Subhi Abu Shqeir, 20 — both residents of a village close to Jenin, in the West Bank. The two men are not believed to be part of any terror infrastructure and are said to have not been connected to previous terrorist activities. They entered Israel illegally through a breach in the West Bank security barrier, Hebrew media reported.

As Israel celebrated its 74th Independence Day, the two suspects on Thursday evening, armed with axes and knifes, stabbed civilians in a crowded park and other nearby locations in the largely ultra-Orthodox city, leaving three fathers dead and multiple injured.

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The three Israeli victims were identified as 44-year-old Yonatan Habakuk, a father of five; 49-year-old Boaz Gol, also a father of five; and 35-year-old Oren Ben Yiftach, a father of six from the city of Lod. Funerals were held on Friday.

“We are in the middle of a tough fight against unbridled Palestinian terrorism, and we will hit it severely with all our force in the villages, cities and refugee camps,” said Public Security Minister Omer Barlev

The stabbing is the latest in a wave of deadly terror attacks in Israel, taking the number of Israelis killed by Palestinian and Arab Israeli attackers since mid-March to a total of 19.

“Israel keeps paying for its independence with human lives,” the Ukrainian embassy in Israel said Friday, joining the chorus of condemnations from foreign officials. “Terrorism and violence should be stopped immediately.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also condemned the recent attack, saying that “the killing of Palestinian and Israeli civilians leads only to more deterioration at a time when all of us try to achieve stability and prevent escalation,” as quoted by the official Wafa news agency.

Israeli security forces have been on high alert amid repeated clashes with Palestinian rioters around Jerusalem’s Temple Mount and the Old City during the recent holy month of Ramadan.

A Hamas spokesperson on Thursday called the killings a “brave operation that deals a heavy blow to Israel.” In late April, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar amplified claims that al-Aqsa Mosque is in danger from Israel, and urged Arab Israelis to ready their guns or “cleaver, axe, or knife” in preparation for a religious war.

Danny Citrinowicz, a former Iran expert in the IDF’s military intelligence unit, suggested that the decentralized nature of the recent terror wave required Israeli authorities to reassess their tactics, and focus on the role of social networks and incitement.

“Most of the attacks have no previous terror connections, are not led by terror infrastructure, and mostly seem to be instigated by social networks,” Citrinowicz tweeted. “The sequence of attacks may indicate that what worked well in the past in terms of intelligence may no longer be good enough to stop the current wave of attacks, mainly due to its unique characteristics.”

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