Wave of terror drive-by shootings in West Bank – Two young women and a teenager were murdered in a shooting attack at hitchhiking post at Gush Etzion Junction. The dead have been named as: Matat Rosenfeld-Adler, 21, of the Carmel settlement in south Mount Hebron. Her cousin, Kineret Mander, 23, also of Carmel, and Oz Ben-Meir, 15, of the Maon settlement, were also shot dead in the attack.
Another three people were wounded in the attack, one of them critically. A soldier is moderately wounded, and a 14 year-old youth was lightly injured. An hour later, a 14 year-old teenager was in serious to moderate condition after a second drive-by attack at the Eli junction.
The wounded were evacuated to the Hadassah Ein Kerem and Shaarei Tzedek hospitals.
Following the wave of terror attacks, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz held a meeting with security chiefs, where they decided on a series of steps, including a near total ban on Palestinian private vehicles on West Bank roads. The encirclement of Palestinian cities was also reactivated following the attacks.
At around 16:10 the first reports came in from the Burial Society (Zaka) of a shooting attack at Gush Etzion Junction.
Etzion Division Commander Colonel Nitzan Alon told reporters at the scene that "a vehicle containing terrorists was heading south towards Hebron. The car slowed down to a very slow speed when it drove past the hitchhiking post, which was packed with citizens waiting for rides towards south Har Hebron. Shots were fired from the vehicle using an automatic weapon, from which three Israelis were killed and a further three injured. The vehicle escaped towards the south."
The IDF has begun scanning villages in the Hebron area in its hunt after the terrorists and the vehicle used for the attack. Palestinian in Hebron reported that the IDF has set up checkpoints and have closed off all Palestinian roads in the area close to the attack.
Colonel Etzion said that "there was no specific warning of the attack, but such an attack is relatively easy to carry out, and we believed it was possible. Gush Katif has been relatively quiet recently. There's no doubt that, with the disengagement, terror organizations have shifted their emphasis from Gaza to Judea and Samaria, and this is perhaps one of the signs."
Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claim responsibility
The al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack in a phone call to Ynet.
“The attack is a response to Israel’s latest crimes, and particularly the murder of Palestinians in Tul Karem and Nablus,” a group member said. However, sources in the territories said the attack may have been carried out by the Hamas in response to the latest wave of arrests against the terror group.
Earlier, IDF troops and rescue workers were dispatched to the scene following initial reports of the attack. Paramedics got a call around 16:07 regarding a shooting attack at the junction, Magen David Adom ambulance service director in the Jerusalem region Ronen Bashari said.
“We are apparently talking about a drive-by shooting in the direction of a hitchhiking post,” he said. “We immediately dispatched four intensive care ambulances and four regular ambulances. The victims are apparently youths.”
The head of the Gush Etzion regional council, Shaul Goldstein, arrived at the scene of the attack and told Ynet: “Civilians, most of them young guys, were standing at the hitchhiking post.”
“The feeling is crappy,” he said. “Whoever thinks quiet is prevailing must be kidding…whoever thinks peace has broken out doesn’t understand what’s happening on the ground.”
National Union party Chairman Benny Elon said following the attack that "the government of surrender of (Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon and his collaborators should be toppled immediately."
"He who runs away from Qassam rockets in Gush Katif brings terror to Gush Etzion," Elon said.
Paramedics treating the wounded at Gush Etzion Junction (Photo: AP)
Earlier Sunday, Palestinian Authority officials said PA security forces foiled 17 terror attacks against Israeli targets last month.
Second shooting attack in Binyamin
A second shooting attack took place at the Eli Junction in Binyamin in the West Bank, resulting in a teenager being seriously to moderately injured.
Wounded from Gush Etzion at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital (Photo: Gil Yochanan)
The attack was also a drive-by shooting, in which Palestinian terrorists opened fire at two teenagers walking along the roadside. One teenager (14) was hit in the chest and thigh. He received treatment at a medical center in the settlement of Eli, from where he was rushed to the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem by paramedics. IDF and police forces have begun scanning the area for the attackers.
The security forces were on their highest level of alert in recent days due to the holiday season. The army and police were aware of 37 warnings of terror attacks in the run up to Yom Kippur, and thousands of police officers spread out in the capital and along the Green Line.
The closure on Judea and Samaria, which began a week before the New Year following Operation First Rain,
has also remained in effect, and will continue until after Sukkot.
Earlier, the Palestinian Interior Ministry said in a statement that Palestinian security forces have aborted 17 attempted terror attacks against Israeli targets, which were planned to be launched from the Gaza Strip. Security forces uncovered 15 Qassam rockets and 75 explosive devices, while seven attempted weapons smuggling runs between Egypt and Gaza were stopped, said the statement.
Ali Waked and Ilan Marciano contributed to the report