Two Israeli guards were killed Friday morning in a shooting attack in an industrial zone near Nitzanei Oz in the Sharon region. The two were in charge of checking Palestinians arriving from the West Bank. The two were identified as Shimon Mizrahi, 53, of Bat Hefer and Eli Wasserman, 51, of Alfei Menashe
The Al-Quds Brigades, the Islamic Jihad's military wing, and the Izz al-Din al-Qassam, Hamas' military wing, claimed shared responsibility for the shooting attack
The organizations claimed that the attack’s executer was a terrorist wanted by Israel and the Palestinian Authority, who arrived at the Israeli Arab village of Qalansuwa disguised as a woman. Later on, the terrorist changed into worker’s garments and advanced towards the factory, where he executed the attack “dedicated to Gaza’s residents.”
The joint statement stressed that the attack was aimed at illustrating that as far as the Palestinians are concerned, a truce with Israel must be comprehensive and include the West Bank.
A senior Islamic Jihad source in the West Bank told Ynet that the shooter had escaped from a PA prison several days ago. According to the source, the attack was carried out in response to Israel's "ongoing crimes" against the organization's members, and in order to signal to the PA that it should stop pursuing the group members.
Scene of attack (Photo: Ido Erez)
Following the attack, IDF forces combed the area in search of the terrorists and the entrance to the industrial zone was blocked.
At around 7:20 am, Magen David Adom emergency services received a report on people injured by gunshots in the northern area of the industrial zone, which is located not far from the West Bank city of Tulkarem. Large rescue forces were dispatched to the area.
Itzik Mimran, a paramedic, told Ynet, "We arrived at the area and found two people lying on the on the ground, one near the factory's eastern wall and the other not far away.
"We tended to them, but one of them was killed on the spot and proclaimed dead. The second one still had a pulse and we began resuscitating him, but were eventually forced to proclaim him dead as well."
An initial investigation into the incident revealed that one terrorist or more arrived at a factory in the area, opened fire and escaped. An MDA crew proclaimed two men, in their fifties, dead. A pistol was found on one of the guards' body.
The industrial zone is built in a manner that did not enable the terrorist to flee into Israel, but only back into Tulkarem. "We will find the shooter, regardless of how long its takes us," a senior IDF source told Ynet.
'Tragic result could have been averted'
Sources in the IDF raised questions over the developments of events, claiming that the incident could have ended differently.
"There were three guards facing one terrorist at the terminal. It shouldn’t have ended this way," a security official told Ynet.
An initial military investigation revealed that one of the killed guards forgot his weapon in the car and was standing at the terminal unarmed, while a third guard fled the area upon hearing the gunshots.
The military sources noted that only a month ago, the guards underwent a drill simulating a terror attack, which was aimed at preparing them for the moment of truth.
Industrial zone near Nitzanei Oz (Photo: Ido Erez)
Brigadier-General Noam Tibon, commander of the Judea and Samaria Division, said that "between 6 am and 7 am, laborers entered the industrial zone. According to the area's security portfolio, there should have been three armed people at the crossing to bring the laborers in.
"Most of the laborers had entered by 6:45 am, and at 7 am a lone terrorist arrived and fired at the factory from the gate, hitting his target. The terrorist did not enter the industrial zone.
"We will investigate the incident, also in order to understand how three armed people failed to fire at the terrorist, kill him or at least injure him. We plan to capture the terrorist shortly."
Widow: This is my nightmare
Shimon Mizrahi's widow, Sara, arrived at the terminal after hearing from her sister-in-law that something had happened at the industrial zone. "I had a bad feeling, so I came," she said, trembling.
She told Ynet that she had asked him not to go to work that day. "I told him to stay home. He was meant to be on vacation today. He shouldn’t have gone to work. This is my nightmare."
Family members, friends and acquaintances of Eli Wasserman gathered at his home in Alfei Menashe following the attack. Wasserman was the manager of a factory at the industrial zone. He arrived Friday morning to pick up Palestinian workers and guard their entry, and was murdered.
Hisdai Eliezer, head of the Alfei Menashe Local Council, arrived at the family home and said that he had known Wasserman for many years. "Eli's father was injured in 1968 during his military service, his brother was killed three months later as officer, and now he was killed in a place called 'Nitzanei Hashalom' (buds of peace)."
Hisdai added, "For years I have been saying that the industrial zone is one of the places just waiting to see a disaster. There is a gate inside the Palestinian territory, with guards standing and letting Palestinians in."
Wasserman's friends said that he was a quiet and shy person, whose family was loved by all the community members. He was survived by his wife, Chaya, and his two children, 30-year-old Ahiad and 28-year-old Michal. His funeral will take place on Sunday at 3 pm at the Netanya cemetery.
Ben Zion Gashuri, one of the industrial zone's entrepreneurs, said that the attack was a great failure. He explained that a large group of Palestinians entered the area with the Shin Bet's approval, and that the terrorist was among a second group.
Pointing the finger at the IDF, Gashuri said, "Every day some 600 Palestinians come to work here. We have excellent relations with the employees and we provide them with work. This is a failure – someone has forgotten that there are other Palestinians near us."
The "Nitzanei Shalom" industrial zone, where the attack took place, is located near the separation fence, not far from Tulkarem.
A truck driver, 27-year-old Shani Ladani, was murdered in the same place about six years ago. His body was found in the area after apparently being attacked and shot by a number of Palestinians.
Efrat Weiss and Ali Waked contributed to this report