As security forces continued their hunt for the perpetrators of the Passover eve attack that killed senior Israeli police officer Baruch Mizrahi, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the Palestinian Authority for the “reprehensible” attack, blasting it for failing to condemn the fatal shooting.
Speaking on Tuesday evening, the prime minister said the attack was a result of Palestinian incitement against Israel, which continued in the form of the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to denounce the killing.
“This reprehensible murder of a man who was traveling with his family to a meal for the Festival of Freedom is the result of the incitement for which the Palestinian Authority is responsible,” Netanyahu said.
“Last night, this incitement was translated into the murder of a father who was traveling with his family to celebrate the first night of Passover,” he said. “The incitement of the Palestinian Authority continues in that it has yet to see fit to condemn this abominable and reprehensible act.”
Also speaking Tuesday was Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who vowed to catch the perpetrators and find out if they were acting independently.
“We will not rest until we get our hands on whoever planned and executed this attack,” he said. “We will not tolerate terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens, and will act with uncompromising determination against all those involved in planning or carrying out attacks.”
Jewish Home head Naftali Bennett, meanwhile, accused Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of “encouraging and financing murderers of Jews” with one hand while “blackmailing the Israeli government into releasing the murderers” with the other.
“Their intention is terror, not peace,” he wrote on his official Facebook page.
Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel, who has been vocal in his opposition to releasing prisoners in exchange for Palestinian concessions, said the attack proved “freeing terrorists encourages terrorism and doesn’t promote any kind of peace.”
Ariel warned that “terrorist organizations recognize the weakness of Israel, which is prepared to release contemptible murderers just to continue the peace talks.”
He then called on Netanyahu to “put an end to Palestinian blackmail” and announce that no more terrorists would be released.
Meanwhile, the IDF’s initial investigation of the attack found that the shooter approached Route 35, near Idhna, on foot, and fired dozens of rounds from a Kalashnikov automatic weapon at passing cars from a distance of several meters.
The victim, Baruch Mizrahi, a senior police officer and a father of five, was killed when the family’s car was struck by several bullets. Mizrahi’s pregnant wife was in stable condition after the attack, and was evacuated to the Sha’arei Tzedek hospital in Jerusalem with broken bones, but no life-threatening injuries. She was informed of her husband’s death and was being treated for shock.
One of the couple’s children, aged 9, was lightly injured. He was in another vehicle at the time of the attack.
Israel’s public security minister, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, on Tuesday visited the wounded mother at a Jerusalem hospital.
“A harsh incident, I have been updated that everybody is making the efforts to capture the terrorists, the murderers. I assume that the security forces will get their hands on the murderers,” he said.
The family was traveling from their home in Modi’in to Hebron to participate in the Passover seder meal with the mother’s family.
Meanwhile Tuesday, security forces were searching extensively for the perpetrators of the attack. Searches were focused on the nearby Palestinian village of Idhna, from which officials believed the gunman or gunmen originated. Several village residents were arrested on Tuesday, but as of Tuesday night, the perpetrators had not been found.
Idhna was closed off by IDF troops throughout the night as they combed its streets and houses for suspects. The closure was removed Tuesday morning, though roadblocks were set up at the village entrances and soldiers were checking residents as they came and went. Searches inside the village were also ongoing.
Security officials told Channel 10 they believed the attack to be an “independent” act, not one sponsored by one of the Palestinian terrorist groups in the region. Though Hamas and Islamic Jihad both praised the attack, they did not take credit for it.
The Associated Press and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.