4 Palestinians attempt to stab soldiers in West Bank, are killed

Troops at junction of Etzion settlement bloc thwart attack by trio from nearby village; another Palestinian tries stabbing near Hebron, is killed

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Scene of an attempted stabbing near the Etzion bloc junction in the West Bank on January 7, 2016. (Etzion Bloc Regional Council)
Scene of an attempted stabbing near the Etzion bloc junction in the West Bank on January 7, 2016. (Etzion Bloc Regional Council)

Israeli reservist soldiers on Thursday shot dead three Palestinians as they tried to carry out a stabbing attack near the junction of the Etzion settlement bloc in the West Bank.

“Three attackers, armed with knives, attempted to stab soldiers guarding the Gush Etzion junction,” the IDF said in a statement, and confirmed that all three attackers had been killed. No one else was wounded in the incident.

Less than two hours later, further south, a fourth Palestinian attempted another stabbing attack. He approached a group of soldiers at the Beit Anoun Junction outside of Hebron and attempted to stab one of them, the IDF said. As he was trying to attack the soldier, the other forces on the scene shot and killed him, the IDF said.

The Walla news website said that the soldiers in the Etzion Bloc junction incident had received a tip-off about an imminent attack shortly before the trio approached. Other Hebrew media reports said the three were all members of the Kawasbeh family, and that they had sought to “avenge” the death of a relative who was buried on Wednesday, having been killed in the course of a terror attack in Israel.

Initial reports suggested that the terrorists arrived by foot, wearing black jackets, from the nearby Palestinian village of Beit Fajjar. They were spotted from an observation post and the information was relayed to the reservists near the junction.

The soldiers called on the three to undergo a security check; one drew a knife, and was immediately shot. The two others then pulled out knives, and were also shot. Palestinians named the assailants as Ala Ayid Kawasbeh, Mahand Kawasbeh and Ahmad Shakar Kawasbeh.

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The Etzion Bloc junction has been a focal point in the ongoing three-month wave of Palestinian attacks targeting Israeli security forces and civilians.

At least 22 Israelis, an American and an Eritrean have been killed in Palestinian terror attacks including stabbings, car rammings and gunfire targeting security forces and civilians since October 1.

At the same time, 142 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, most while carrying out or attempting to carry out attacks.

Only two days ago, a 34-year-old Israeli man sustained light wounds to his face and arms at the same junction. The Palestinian attacker was shot dead at the scene.

Last month, Mahmoud El-Khatib, 16, also from Beit Fajjar, was shot dead as he approached people at a hitchhiking stop with a knife.

In November, Hadar Buchris, 21, of Safed was stabbed to death at the junction by Wissam Tawabte, 34, also from Beit Fajjar. Wissam was shot dead at the scene and his body was returned to his family in December.

Also in November, Ezra Schwartz, 18, of Sharon, Massachusetts and Yaakov Don, 51, from Alon Shvut were killed after 24-year-old Mohammed Abdel Basset al-Kharoub, from the West Bank village of Dir Smat near Hebron, opened fire with an Uzi submachine gun from inside a vehicle at Israeli vehicles, hitting several people.

When al-Kharoub ran out of ammunition, he drove in the direction of the Gush Etzion Junction before ramming the vehicle into a car.

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