An IDF soldier was seriously injured in a suspected terror stabbing near the Tzrifin military base in central Israel Tuesday morning.
Despite the soldier’s injuries, he managed to fight off the suspect, who sought to steal his weapon, laying on top of it so that it could not be yanked away until civilian passersby overpowered the assailant, the army said.
A second soldier at the scene was also stabbed but sustained only light injuries.
The two victims in their 20s were evacuated to a nearby hospital for treatment, with the lightly injured soldier released hours later. The attacker was arrested at the scene and taken for questioning.
Central police commander Avi Bitton said in a statement at the scene of the attack that the suspect was a 20-year-old from the West Bank city of Hebron.
Bitton said the attacker apparently acted alone, after initial reports suggested he had an accomplice.
While there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack from a terror group, the stabbing was welcomed by Hamas, which tied it to expected attempts by Jewish extremists to sacrifice an animal at the flashpoint Temple Mount holy site in Jerusalem ahead of the upcoming Passover holiday.
מעצר המחבל בצומת צריפין בפיגוע הדקירה בידי אזרחים שהזעיקו את המשטרה. שני הפצועים, צעירים ישראלים כבני 20 נפצעו באורח קשה וקל ופונו לבי״ח אסף הרופא בצריפין. pic.twitter.com/1w2ijmo977
— Or Heller אור הלר (@OrHeller) April 4, 2023
“We welcome the stabbing attack which is the first response to the war that Israel is waging in the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the intention to make a sacrifice. What is to come will be even worse,” a spokesperson for the terror group said, according to Hebrew-language media reports.
“Israel and the settlers will remain in a state of fear and lack of security,” the terror group said.
The attack came amid spiking tensions and hours after the IDF said a shooting targeted a northern Israeli town, with an offshoot of the Islamic Jihad terror group claiming responsibility for the attack. There were no casualties and Israeli troops were scanning the area around Kibbutz Ma’ale Gilboa, where several homes incurred damage from bullets, the army said.
On Saturday, a Palestinian assailant hit three Israeli soldiers south of Bethlehem Saturday night in a ramming attack, the military said. The driver accelerated toward the soldiers and hit them near the West Bank village of Beit Ummar, as they were operating to secure roads in the area from rock-throwers and other attacks. Other soldiers shot the attacker dead.
Tensions have spiked in the region over the past year as Israeli forces have ratcheted up arrest raids and other counterterror efforts in the West Bank following a series of terror attacks.
Palestinian terror attacks in Israel and the West Bank in recent months have left 15 Israelis dead and several more seriously hurt.
At least 86 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the year, most of them while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces, though some were uninvolved civilians and others were killed under circumstances that are being investigated.
There has also been a rise in settler violence toward Palestinians in recent months.
The Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began last week and will end April 21, often sees elevated Israeli-Palestinian tensions, with frictions already high this year in Jerusalem and across the West Bank following months of deadly violence.
Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.