One person was killed and two others were seriously wounded in a suspected Palestinian shooting and stabbing attack in the West Bank on Sunday morning. Israeli security forces launched a massive manhunt for at least one perpetrator of the attack.
The incident apparently began when a Palestinian stabbed an Israeli at an intersection near the Jewish settlement of Ariel and then stole his rifle and shot him. The assailant used the weapon to fire at three vehicles, hitting a civilian and then hijacking a car, which he drove to another junction nearby where he shot a second soldier before continuing on to a nearby Palestinian village, said the military.
The IDF Spokesperson's Unit didn't identify the man who died, and said it was not immediately clear if more than one assailant was involved.
The Israeli military said in a statement that the latter two shootings had occurred at the Ariel and Gitai intersections, and that troops were searching for the gunman. Security forces were also trying to ascertain whether the shootings were indeed carried out using the stolen weapon.
"Around 10:00am, a terrorist attacked a soldier at the Ariel Junction, took his weapon, and shot at three cars at the intersection that had been passing by,” said Ronen Manelis, chief IDF spokesman.
The two surviving victims were taken for treatment to the Beilinson Hospital at the Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva. "I was passing the Ariel Junction in a car when I heard gunfire and saw soldiers running,” said a Magen David Adom paramedic, Hanannel Hass. “When the gunfire stopped, I got out of the car and saw a young man lying unconscious with gunshot wounds to his upper body.”
"We are in the midst of pursuing these terrorists,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. “I am sure they will be captured and brought to justice, just as others who committed similar attacks.”
Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group welcomed the West Bank shooting attack, but didn’t claim responsibility. "The attack in Ariel was carried out in order to move the compass and bring the struggle to its natural location," the terror group said in a statement. "We welcome the attack and salute the rebel heroes in the West Bank.”
Hamas also welcomed the attack."This is a response to the crimes of the Israeli occupation, and to the events in Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” said the terror group in a statement. “All the acts of oppression and attempts to undermine the resistance will not succeed in defeating the will of our people or preventing us from following the path of jihad."
Noa Benyamini, 17, who was at the Gitai intersection during the attack, said she was left in disbelief following the events. "I heard gunfire and at first though it was the sound of firecrackers, but then I saw shards of broken glass,” she said. “I saw the man (who was shot) fall down … It was really scary, I didn’t think it was ever going to happen to me.”
Large numbers of troops were deployed to the scene to hunt for the attacker or attackers
The IDF closed off the entrances and exits to three local Palestinian villages in an effort to track down those behind the attack.
Associated Press contributed to this report