IDF troops have reached a dead end on Saturday night after completing searches in Palestinian villages near the settlement of Dolev in the West Bank, failing to lay hands on the terrorist who shot dead Israeli Danny Gonen in a deadly attack the previous day.
Troops were scanning the area and questioning locals from the villages of Ein Kinya and Dayr Ibzi, which are near the site of the attack.
The army has reopened the access roads leading to the villages, which were closed the previous day.
The focus of the investigation will now shift to the intelligence realm, and will be led by Shin Bet investigators.
A primary inspection of the victim's vehicle shows that the assailant fired at least 10 rounds, four of which hit the car, and ran away. Shin Bet investigators collected 9mm shell casings found near the vehicle, which suggests the shooter fired from point-blank range. The casings were passed on to forensics. Additionally, the investigators questioned hikers who where in the area prior to the attack.
Israel is not expected to take punitive action against the Palestinian population after increasing free movement in the area and easing restrictions for Ramadan.
An initial investigation of the attack showed that around 4 pm on Friday, Gonen and his friend finished swimming in a spring located in a mountainous area between the settlement of Dolev and the Palestinian village of Dayr Ibzi. They drove back toward the main road, and where flagged down by a Palestinian on a nearby dirt road. The man seems to have been asking for help, and when the two stopped their car, the man asked them whether there was water in the spring. He then shot them from point blank range, and fled.
After the attack, large forces of IDF troops began amassing at the scene, and immediately began conducting sweeps and raids in the local villages. At this point, the search effort has become invisible, as was the case in last year's Operation Brother's Keeper (search for the three kidnapped yeshiva teens), when operations moved from the field to intelligence officers.
"Danny was the best kid in the world. A flower. He was the family's support column," Gonen's uncle said on Friday.
Gonen is survived by his mother, and was the eldest of five brothers. A source told Ynet on Saturday that Gonen's mother donated his corneas, which can help save someone's sight. They were only harvested after being found suitable for donation, and will be transplanted in the coming days.
An investigation of the scene led the IDF to believe the attacker was a 'lone wolf', acting without the support or instruction of one of the terror organizations. This was contrasted, however, by a statement from a cell claiming to be related to Hamas' military wing, which took responsibility for the attack. The cell is named after Marwan Kawasmeh and Amar Abu-Eisha - the names of the two men responsible for kidnapping the three Israeli teens in Gush Etzion last year.
The cell said the attack was carried out after a long period of observation at the site, and that one of the group's members waited for the car to approach and shot them upon confirming they were Israeli. They went on to say that the group's members returned home safely.
Three weeks ago, the same cell claimed responsibility for throwing an explosive device at a group of soldiers near the village of Silwad, near Ramallah. The group's statement stated that the attack Friday was part of a wave of attacks in response to "Israel's crimes," and in reaction to the killing of Palestinians, the most recent of which was Ezzedine Ghora from the Jenin refugee camp (a Hamas member).
Hamas praised the attack, but did not claim responsibility: "We and all our people respect the pure hands which focus on resistance, and aim the rounds towards the occupation, despite all the challenges in the West Bank. Israel's crimes won't go without reaction from the resistance."