An IDF soldier was killed and five were wounded shooting attack by Palestinian terrorists targeting the “tunnels” checkpoint on the West Bank’s Route 60, south of Jerusalem, police and medics said Thursday. Police said the three gunmen had planned to carry out a much larger massacre, in Jerusalem.
Cpl. Avraham Fetena, 20, a Military Police soldier from Haifa was critically wounded in the attack and later succumbed to his wounds at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, the army said.
One of the victims of the attack said all the doors of a white Skoda opened at once, with each gunman shooting in a different direction, and security forces quickly returning fire.
Police said the car in which the terrorists arrived had false license plates, and identified two of them as Palestinians from the Hebron area. The Shin Bet security agency later named the two as Hamas member Abdelqader Qawasmeh, 26, and 28-year-old Hassan Qafisha, who is affiliated with Hamas and whose father was the head of the terror group’s military arm in Hebron until he was killed in 2003. The Shin Bet said it was still verifying the identity of the third gunman, but Palestinian media identified him as Nasser Kawasmeh. Hebrew media reports later said he too was affiliated with Hamas.
The West Bank military wing of the Hamas terror group on Thursday evening claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was to avenge “the blood of the martyrs” in Gaza.
Police said many weapons were found inside the car, including two M16 rifles, two pistols, about 10 loaded magazines, hundreds of additional bullets, and two axes. Also found in the vehicle were uniforms resembling those of the Israeli military.
Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, who arrived at the scene, said this indicated that they had planned a much larger-scale terror “massacre” inside Jerusalem.
Shaare Zedek and Hadassah each said they had received three people with gunshot wounds. Police said the six gunshot victims were members of security forces, while at least two civilians were treated at the scene for acute anxiety.
A 32-year-old victim, named by Hadassah as security guard Moshe Mualem, recounted the attack from his hospital bed, saying he had been shot in the leg and adding that shrapnel from another bullet had hit his wallet, which protected his other leg from being hit.
*המרכז הרפואי הדסה:*
רופאי יחידת הטראומה בהדסה עין כרם שלפו את ארנקו של הפצוע מהפיגוע וגילו: הארנק חסם רסיס כדור ומנע פגיעה ברגל.
משה מועלם בן ה-32, מאבטח בחברת האבטחה TM עוטף ירושלים, המוצב במחסום המנהרות, נפצע בפיגוע שארע הבוקר בעמדת האבטחה.
הוא פונה על ידי מד״א להדסה עין… pic.twitter.com/xVm3i3u2TE
— בז news (@1717Bazz) November 16, 2023
Security forces scanned the area for more possible assailants, and after a search, ruled out the possibility that an explosive device had been left at the scene.
Police’s Jerusalem District Commander Doron Turgeman arrived at the scene and praised the officers’ swift reaction to the attack.
All roads leading to the portion of Route 60 known as the “tunnels road” were temporarily blocked, leading to heavy traffic, and were later reopened.
זירת הפיגוע במחסום המנהרות@inbartvizer
צילום: תיעוד מבצעי מד"א pic.twitter.com/8aIcy7Ph3x
— החדשות – N12 (@N12News) November 16, 2023
The attack occurred amid the war between Israel and the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip following the latter’s October 7 massacres in southern Israel, in which it massacred 1,200 people and abducted some 240, and amid growing tensions and several recent Palestinian attacks on Israelis in the West Bank and in Jerusalem.
Responding to the terror attack, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said the Palestinian Authority and Hamas in the West Bank should be given the same treatment as Hamas in Gaza.
“We need to deal with Hamas in the West Bank — and with the Palestinian Authority, which has similar views to Hamas and its heads identify with Hamas’s massacre — exactly like we are dealing with Gaza,” said Ben Gvir, appearing to call for the elimination of the Palestinian Authority the same way the IDF is aiming to vanquish Hamas in Gaza.
Oded Revivi, head of the Efrat Local Council, said the checkpoint had become “a death trap” due to the traffic bottleneck it causes in the many highway linking Jerusalem and the Gush Etzion settlements.
“We are warning that the checkpoint has become a death trap because of the bottleneck it causes which endangers the residents who wait [in line] along the whole length of the road for too long, and the crowding [of vehicles on the road] which doesn’t provide for any solution during a tragic event,” said Revivi following the attack.
“The operational necessity of security checks is clear. However, creating such a big traffic jam, which is a result of a lack of guards, a lack of inspection stations, and other issues, endangers lives and creates sitting targets for terrorists,” he argued. “It is horrifying to think what would happen if terrorists opened fire on a group of cars in the traffic jam, and the physical inability of emergency service vehicles to reach them. An immediate solution has to be created to save lives.”