Palestinian terrorists who carried out a deadly knife and ax attack in Elad on Thursday night were transported from the West Bank barrier to the Israeli city by one of their three victims, security officials said on Friday.
The two attackers, who fled, remain impossible to locate despite massive deployments to find them.
It was Oren Ben Yiftah, a 35-year-old Lod resident, who removed Asad Yousef Asad al-Rifai, 19, and Subhi Emad Subhi Abu Shqeir, 20, from the security fence. of smuggling to Israel. in Elad, officials said.
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Upon arrival, a source from a security agency said that, on condition of anonymity, the two men attacked Ben Yiftah and killed him. They then headed to Ibn Gvirol Street where they killed two people, Yonatan Havakuk and Boaz Gol. The three victims, aged thirty or forty, leave behind a total of 16 children.
The two attackers reportedly fled in a car and police believe they are still in Israel.
Information that Ben Yiftah allegedly helped the two young terrorists remained banned until Friday evening, for undetermined reasons. A large number of other details remain under seizure by court order.
According to Israeli media reports, Ben Yiftah did not know that the two men were in Israel illegally. He had transported them at least ten times in the past when they went to work in the ultra-Orthodox city and was unaware of his plan of attack.
Channel 12 reported on Saturday that the two killers called Ben Yiftah on Thursday, telling him they had to go to Elad to work. He had been told that urgent work was being done on the synagogue on Yehuda Hanassi Street. Arriving near the synagogue, they attacked his victim with an ax and a knife, the chain said. He tried to fight, in vain. He has been murdered.
While illegal, some Israelis earn some money by transporting Palestinians from the West Bank who need to travel to the Jewish state to work, taking them to places where they are employed.
Authorities believe al-Rifai and Abu Shqeir had worked in Elad in the past and were familiar with the area.
The suspects had no history of terrorist activities and had no affiliation with recognized groups, Army Radio reported.
Violations of the West Bank security fence, which are used by workers entering the Jewish state, have also been used by terrorists responsible for a series of attacks on Israel in recent weeks. Defense officials promised that these breaches would be repaired and that the barrier would be better protected. Several attackers were from the northern West Bank, which led the army to concentrate its efforts on the area.
On Friday, Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai ordered law enforcement to launch a national operation against Palestinians entering Israel from the West Bank illegally and helping them do so.
Several Palestinians who were illegally in the country were arrested on Friday, police said. Abu Shqeir’s father, also known as Emad Subhi Abu Shqeir, was detained, detained by Israeli agents while working in Israel, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Information Office.
Arrests that took place while police and IDF were deployed en masse within the Jewish state and in the West Bank to find the two suspects, from the village of Rumana, north of Jenin.
“We will catch the terrorists and those who supported them and pay the price of their actions,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said after meeting with senior security officials on Thursday evening.
According to authorities, the terrorists fled in a vehicle. However, they focused their search on Elad, apparently believing that the two young men had not returned to the West Bank.
“Our working hypothesis is that they are in the vicinity of Elad and hundreds of security officers are currently there looking for them,” said Israel Police Center District Commander Avi. Bitton.
Elad, a town of about 50,000 ultra-Orthodox people east of Tel Aviv, is three kilometers from the Green Line between Israel and the West Bank.
Police are also searching for the two men in the nearby town of Rosh Haayin, the city said in a statement.
“Police and security forces are deployed throughout the city,” according to a message from the municipality.
Searches have begun in Rantis, a Palestinian village on the other side of the West Bank security fence, and in industrial areas in the area. The two young men could be hiding in warehouses or factories, empty over the weekend, he reported. Ha’aretz.
Al-Rifai’s father told the Palestinian media that he had not seen his son for two days and that he had not heard from him for forty-eight hours.
“All I know is that my son went to work with his friend Subhi in Ramallah. That’s all, I don’t know anything else,” said Yousef al-Rifai. “No one told us, neither the Jews nor the Palestinian Authority. »
He said his son worked in the construction industry in Israel and occasionally helped Abu Shqeir, who is an electrician.
Following the attack, Israeli security officials extended the closure of the West Bank and Gaza crossings, a closure that was launched on Tuesday afternoon, before Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut. Initially, the venues were to reopen overnight Thursday through Friday.
Thursday’s terrorist attacks followed several attacks on Israel and the West Bank in recent weeks and repeated threats from terrorist groups following clashes on Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
Witnesses said the two terrorists attacked several people with axes and knives in a downtown park and on a nearby road Thursday night in the mostly ultra-Orthodox town.
With Elad’s three victims, the death toll from terrorist attacks this year has risen to 19 since March 22.
The three Israelis were buried Friday evening in separate ceremonies.
“He had a heart of gold, he just did good things and he wanted to help others,” Lior Ben Yiftah said, referring to his twin brother, Oren, on the Ynet site.
He said he had seen his brother a few hours before the attack and that they had celebrated Yom HaAtsmaut together, around a barbecue.
In addition to the three victims, seven people were injured. Officials at the hospitals where they were treated said on Friday evening that two victims who had arrived in critical condition were now out of danger.
In an attempt to quell the escalation of ongoing violence, the army intensified its activities in the West Bank by conducting raids that resulted in clashes that left at least 26 dead on the Palestinian side. While a large number of deaths took part in these skirmishes, others appear to have been civilians who were there by chance.
Aaron Boxerman contributed to this article