BEIT HAGGAI - The terrorists who staged the latest West Bank shooting attack, which left one Israeli dead, took advantage of the easing of restrictions on Palestinian movement in the southern Mount Hebron area, Judea Brigade Commander Colonel Moti Baruch said.
Following the attack, Palestinian freedom of movement in the area has been curbed in a bid to prevent further attacks, he said, and added the manhunt for the terror cell behind the latest shooting continues through an intelligence effort and other means.
On Friday afternoon, Palestinian terrorists opened fire on a group of Israeli youths waiting at a hitchhiking post outside the West bank settlement of Beit Haggai, southwest of Hebron.
A 15-year-old was killed and four others were wounded in the attack.
Preliminary reports indicate that, at around 4:45 PM, a white car initially passed the hitchhiking post, but made a U-turn when those inside saw the teens waiting there. The vehicle then stopped in front of the post, and someone inside opened fire on the youths and on a family in a blue car that had stopped to give them a lift.
the brother of a severely wounded teen, said that his brother called his parents to tell them about the attack.
IDF, police and Magen David Adom personnel were called to the scene.
Avi Reshef, a paramedic from Kiryat Arba, was on duty when he got the news about the incident.
“We received a report about a shooting at Beit Haggai. We left with paramedics and a doctor. One of those hit was already dead,” Reshef said. "There was nothing we could do besides certify his death."
Amir and Ra'ut Azoulay were in the blue car with their four-year-old when they were lightly wounded by shrapnel. They managed to drive away, but the more seriously were evacuated by helicopter to Jerusalem's Hadassah Ein-Kerem Hospital and Beer Sheva's Soroka Medical Center.
The names of the dead teen and the more seriously injured will not given out until Saturday night, after Shabbat.
The "Martyr Massoud Iyad" cell, affiliated with Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades,
took responsibility for the drive-by. There was no additional shooting at Adurayim as previously reported; rather, the Azoulays drove to an IDF checkpoint there to get help.
An al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade commander told Ynet that the attack was "a response to Israeli violations of the cease-fire."
Settler response: We told you so
Har Hebron council head Tzviki Bar-Chai said that the terrorists were emboldened but what they saw as “Israeli weakness.”
“The flight from the Gaza Strip encourages them to commit more terrorist attacks until they expel us from all of the Land of Israel,” Bar-Chai said, adding that the giving up of Qalqilya and Bethlehem also blows wind into the sails of the terrorists.
The Yesha settler council sources said, “Whoever runs from terror, terror will chase after him ... Just as we warned in the past, with the impending disengagement and fleeing part of the land, the terrorists will commit more attacks.”
By contrast, a man who recently finished up his army service in the area of Beit Haggai told Ynet that the attack was entirely predictable given the dangerous location of the hitchhiking post.
“The hitchhiking post is 200 meters from the settlement and 800 meters from the IDF base defending it …," he noted. "Every Friday, we would see kids leaving the settlement do go to the post. As much as we warned them about the angers of the place, they still refused to stand closer to the settlement. They said God would protect them.”
Elsewhere in the West Bank
On Monday, 28-year-old Yevgeny Raider from Hermesh was killed by gunfire when his car was ambushed near Baqa al-Sharqiya, southwest of the West Bank city of Jenin.
Andre Zeidan, who was traveling with Raider, was lightly wounded and treated at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Shomer.
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad took credit for the attack.
Hours later a Palestinian was killed by IDF fire near Netzarim and entry to Israel through the Erez Checkpoint was closed off.
-- Ali Waked, Ahiya Raved, Ronny Sofer and Doron Sheffer contributed to this report