Five civilians were killed in two terrorist attacks in Tel Aviv and the West Bank on Thursday in the deadliest day of terror yet to strike the country during the current violent escalation began in October.
The first incident took place just outside a synagogue in the Panorama building on Ben Tzvi Boulevard in Tel Aviv on Thursday afternoon. According to witness reports, a terrorist armed with a knife attacked the first victim, who managed to stumble into the synagogue after being stabbed. Other worshippers managed to close the door as the attacker attempted to follow the wounded victim in. The assailant then proceeded to stab several people in the building, killing two Israelis –Reuven Aviram, 51, and Aharon Yesiav, 32, and leaving two others wounded.
Yesiav lived in Holon and worked at a store in the building. He was a father of five, the youngest of whom was born four months ago. He went to pray before the attack and witnesses told his father that he protected other worshippers: "He was the one who saved the people and shielded them with his body from the stabber."
Aviram, 51, from Ramle, was killed while praying. His only son Uriel, 25, found out about his father's death after he saw his body on the ground in a video he received on whatsapp. "He was a humble man, who was taken from us before his time," his son said.
The assailant, a 36-year-old resident of Dura near Hebron, with no criminal record, was seriously wounded and was taken into custody.
Less than three hours later, an Uzi-wielding Palestinian terrorist killed three people and injured several others after he drove his car onto the shoulder on the congested road leading from Alon Shvut to Gush Etzion junction. The terrorist took advantage of a traffic jam, bypassed several cars, and then opened fire at the vehicles. The terrorist managed to murder three people in his attack: 18-year-old American volunteer Ezra Schwartz, Yaakov Don, 49, and Shadi Arafa, 40, a Palestinian citizen of Hebron.
Schwartz was part of a group of Yeshiva volunteers from Bet Shemesh, who travelled to the area in order to hand out food to soldiers. The group was on its way back home before the attack took place. Schwartz came to Israel as part of a program in which young people come to Israel for nine months of volunteer work.
Don, the son of holocaust survivors. and a doctoral student for education technology at Haifa University, had previously served as an educational envoy, was a resident of Alon Shvut, and a father of four.
Arafa, 24, was from the village of Dir Samat near Hebron. The Palestinian Health Ministry, an official PA body, later released a notice starting that Shadi Arafa was killed by Israeli forces. However, the terrorist was captured, not shot, and it was not clear whether Israeli forces had even fired shots. Arafa's body was set to be transferred to the PA on Thursday night.
Yuval Lasri, who overpowered the terrorist at the scene, said: "I stood in the traffic jam and heard gunfire. The terrorist rammed a car behind me. I got out of my car, pushed his gun away and threw him on the ground. I didn’t shoot at him because I wasn’t sure that he was the terrorist, but then I saw the gun next to him and understood that he was."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of the attack: "The murderous terror has struck Gush Etzion and Tel Aviv. My heart is with the families of the murdered and I send my wishes for a speedy recovery to the wounded.
"Whoever condemned the attacks in France needs to condemn the attacks in Israel. It's the same terror. Whoever does not do this is a hypocrite and blind," the prime minister concluded.
Hamas released a statement praising the attack, connecting it to the fact that Israel still holds the bodies of several recent Palestinian attackers who were killed by security forces.
Elior Levy, Roy Yanovsky, Elisha Ben Kimon, Yoav Zitun