A family from the West Bank settlement of Efrat set out on Friday for a holiday trip when it was struck by terror.
Two of the daughters, 15 and 20 years old, were murdered and their mother was critically injured when terrorists fired at them from close range out of a passing car.
The father, who had two of the family's other two children in his car, heard about the attack and returned to the scene to receive the devastating news. Broken, he drove to the hospital to be near his wife.
The injured 48-year-old mom was taken by military chopper to the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem where doctors were still fighting for her life.
Professor Alon Pikarsky, head of surgery at Hadassah said she arrived in unstable condition suffering from critical wounds. "We are doing everything possible to save her life," he said. "The situation is still dire," he said. Professor Avi Rifkin, the hospital's world-renowned head of trauma, was called in to assist the multidisciplinary team.
Regional Council mayor Carmi Yogev said the family chose to immigrate from the UK and settle in Efrat. "They are true Zionists," he said. "They quickly made friends and immersed themselves in the community. The mother was actively involved in the education system," he said adding that all council recourses were dedicated to assisting the family, their close circle of friends and the entire community. "We cannot at this time release their names until final identification is completed by the police," he said.
The mayor of Efrat, Oded Revivi called on his residents to ask for help if they were struggling with the news of the tragedy."This is a difficult time and we have lost two sisters from one of our families," he said. It is time to reach out to each other, give strength where it is needed and pay attention to those who may be struggling," Reviv said. "The municipality and all of its staff is surrounding the family and praying for the mother's full recovery," he said.
Efrat youth gathered in the settlement to pray for the mother's recovery and draw strength from each other, holding hands and singing songs.
A special prayer for the health of the family's mother was to be held in Efrat before Shabbat and the funeral of the two girls will take place on Sunday.
Initial investigation revealed the terrorists were traveling in the opposite direction, in a vehicle with Israeli license plates that were suspected of being forged. They opened fire on the car carrying the mother and her two daughters, then turned around and began chasing them, causing their car, to veer off the road and hit a different car driven by a Palestinian West Bank resident. The murderers then opened fire from close range, they then made sure their victims were dead before fleeing the scene.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant convened a special meeting of security officials to discuss the response to the latest surge in violence and the deadly terror attack.
"Forces have been instructed to direct all resources to the capture of the terrorists and the strengthening of military presence in the West Bank and elsewhere in Israel," a statement released by the Defense Ministry said.
Gallant was joined by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the scene of the terror attack later in the afternoon. "It is only a matter of time before we apprehend the murderers," he said.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides posted on his Twitter feed: "Horrified to see the deadly terror attack in the West Bank today, where a mother was critically injured, and her two daughters were killed. Praying for peace as we continue to observe the holidays."
In a suspected hate crime in response to the attack, a greenhouse owned by Palestinian farmers was set on fire near the site of the murders.