An Israeli father and his teenage son were shot dead Friday afternoon by two Palestinian gunmen who fired on their vehicle south of the West Bank city of Hebron. The mother of the family was lightly injured, and a second son suffered moderate injuries. The family’s three daughters were not hit by the gunfire but were treated for shock.
Just before 3 p.m. on Friday, the Magen David Adom rescue service received a report of gunshots fired at a car near Otniel Junction in the southern West Bank. Paramedics arrived to find two Israelis critically injured. They subsequently pronounced them dead at the scene.
The two were later identified as a 40-year-old man and his 18-year-old son. The murdered father and the son were seated in the front seats of the vehicle; initial reports said the family, said to live in the settlement of Kiryat Arba adjoining Hebron, was on its way to relatives in the southern town of Meitar. The family was driving to a Shabbat Chatan, a Jewish ritual celebrated on the weekend preceding a wedding; the fourth daughter of the family was not in the car, preparing for her wedding.
Channel 2 reported that two gunmen overtook and opened fire at the vehicle, which then crashed into rocks at the roadside, and that one of them then got out and fired more shots from closer to the family’s car. The TV report said the critically injured son managed to telephone emergency services and was then fatally hit by more gunfire.
The TV report said security authorities were also investigating whether the first ambulance on the scene, from the Palestinian Red Crescent, slowed, saw that the victims were Jews, and sped away, failing to provide medical assistance.
The mother and her second son, a 16-year-old boy, were taken to Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba for treatment. The three daughters were being treated at the same hospital for shock.
Security forces entered a number of villages in the area, supported by military helicopters, to where the suspected terrorists could have fled, Channel 2 said. The nearby village of Yatta was also placed under closure.
Noam Bar, a senior Magen David Adom paramedic who was one of the first to reach the victims, said: “When we arrived at the scene we saw seven passengers outside the vehicle, two of them — a man of about 40 and a youth of about 18 — lying unconscious with bullet wounds to the upper body. They displayed no signs of life and we were forced to pronounce them dead at the scene.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his condolences following the attack, and vowed that Israel would hunt down those responsible for the killings.
“We will get to these heinous murderers and we will bring them to justice as we have done in the past,” the prime minister said, warning that Israel would continue to fight terror wherever necessary.
Members of Har Hevron Regional Council called on the government to use every means at its disposal in order to halt the wave of terror, Channel 2 said. They also accused the Palestinian Red Crescent rescue service of failing to help the dead and wounded.
MK Avigdor Liberman, the hawkish head of the opposition Yisrael Beytenu party, said the attack was due to failed government policy of containment, Channel 2 reported.
The Walla website said that Hamas, which has a minor foothold in the West Bank but has been agitating for an increase in attacks on Israelis by West Bank Palestinians, welcomed the attack as a “quality development in the intifada.”
Israel’s Channel 2 said “the signs pointed to” a Hamas attack.
Hamas media outlets claimed that the terrorists “spared” the lives of the children in the car, on the grounds that it violates their faith. The group made a similar claim after a Hamas terror cell shot dead Eitam and Naama Henkin in front of their children in an attack in the West Bank last month. Channel 2 said the victims’ car had darkened windows, and the terrorists apparently didn’t realize there were passengers in the back.
The attack brings to 15 the number of Israelis killed in the current cycle of Palestinian terror and violence, which flared up during the Jewish New Year holiday in September. Some 200 Israelis have also been wounded in the car-ramming, shooting and knife attacks that have struck primarily in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Dozens of Palestinians have also been killed or injured, the vast majority while carrying out attacks or attempted attacks or in clashes with Israeli security forces.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report