Palestinian sources reported Friday evening that IDF forces entered the al-Ahli hospital in Hebron to search among its patients for the Palestinian gunmen involved in the killing of two Israeli hikers earlier in the day.
According to the report soldiers entered the hospital and are examining patients ID's in an attempt to track down the cell members.
Cpl. Ahikam Amihai (20) and Sgt. David Ruben (21), both residents of the neighboring settlement of Kiryat Arba, were hiking through the Telem Creek area with an unnamed female companion when a group of four Palestinians drove up towards them and opened fire.
Amihai and Ruben, who both served in elite commando units, were reportedly carrying their firearms with them and were able to return fire, killing one of the Palestinian gunmen and seriously wounding another before succumbing to their injuries.
The al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad, claimed responsibility for the shooting.
Troops searching Hebron area (Photo: Ata Awisat)
The IDF is continuing to investigate the incident. Military officials praised Amihai and Ruben's conduct under fire, saying that they "fought bravely till the bitter end."
Lt. Col. Yehuda Fox, who heads the Hebron regional brigade, spoke with reporters Friday afternoon and urged Israelis planning hiking trips in the area to coordinate their course with local security forces ahead of time.
A senior Islamic Jihad official told Ynet that the commander of the shooting attack is Samar Nabil al-Natsheh, a senior member of the al-Quds Brigades – the military wing of the Islamic Jihad.
Samar is the son of Nabil al-Natsheh, a prominent businessman and senior Hamas leader in Hebron. The Islamic Jihad confirmed that the attack was carried out in conjunction with Hamas
Meanwhile Israeli ambassador to the UN, Dan Gillerman, issued a harshly-worded letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the presidents of the UN Security Council following the attack.
While Israel is committed to advancing the peace process in accordance with the principles agreed upon at the Annapolis peace conference, Gillerman wrote, the Palestinian Authority is doing nothing to combat terrorism or uphold various other commitments towards peace, including those specified in the Road Map. Gillerman added that Israel has evidence proving that terror groups are funded by several UN member states and asked that the letter be forwarded to all members of the Security Council.
Efrat Weiss contributed to this report