‘New Stage in War on Terrorism’: Palestinians Who Killed Three in Elad Attack Captured After 60-Hour Manhunt
Israeli security forces on Sunday arrested two Palestinian terrorists three days after they allegedly murdered three Israeli civilians in a stabbing attack in the central city of Elad.
“IDF soldiers operated over the weekend together with the Israel Police and Israel Security Agency (ISA) to catch the terrorists,” IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi said in a statement. “We will continue operating to stop terrorism and strengthen the security and sense of security of Israeli civilians.”
In a joint search effort involving a total of 800 soldiers from field intelligence and special forces units within the Israel Police, ISA and IDF, the two suspects —19-year-old As’sad al-Rifai and 20-year-old Emad Subhi Abu Shqeir, both from Rumana in the Jenin area of the West Bank — were caught adjacent to a quarry in a forested area close to Elad. The police’s aerial unit also assisted in the search with drones, radars and helicopters.
The two Palestinians were captured with the help of a group of IDF soldiers and intelligence forces, who spotted a bush that looked slightly irregular, a military official recounted.
“When they got closer, as they were scanning that area that they had according to intel, they saw actually the bush moving up and down,” the official said during a briefing.
In video footage from the arrest released by the Israel Police, al-Rifai identifies himself and his accomplice by their names. When asked by an officer what they were doing, al-Rifai says, “an attack… an attack in Elad.” When asked what happened in the attack, he responds, “[we] hit people… [me and] my friend, Subhi.”
According to an IDF official, the two terrorists illegally crossed through the West Bank security barrier, carried out the attack in Elad using axes as weapons, and then fled to hide in the area they were caught Sunday.
Asked about whether their ability to penetrate the security fence was an operational failure by the army, the military official said, “that they entered is a failure of the IDF. We are in charge of protecting Israeli civilians from terrorists coming [into Israel].”
“We are not able to do this along 130 kilometers at this point in a hermetic way,” he added. “We are continuously learning how to do this and are continuously looking for new methods and tactics.”
The three Israeli victims from Thursday’s terror attack on Independence Day in Elad were 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.
“The miserable terrorists, brainwashed with incitement who used axes to commit unimaginably brutal murders, were apprehended,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett stated at Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting. “Capturing the murderers is not enough. We are at the start of a new stage in the war on terrorism.”
“Those who incite cannot rest easy. Those who throw matches cannot run away,” he warned.
Bennett reiterated that the government’s primary mission is to restore personal security to the citizens of Israel.
“We are advancing two very significant things. First — the establishment of a national guard,” he announced. “The Israel Police is also embarking on an operation to deal with those present in Israel illegally, which has become a national blight.”
Bennett expects to establish a civilian national guard by the end of the month, involving border police units along with trained units of volunteers and reservists.
“They will be activated in emergencies and disturbances, and in routine times as well, as necessary,” he explained.