Ariel terrorist who killed rabbi and soldier dies in firefight with IDF troops
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Ariel terrorist who killed rabbi and soldier dies in firefight with IDF troops

After two-day manhunt, Israeli troops circle building to arrest Palestinian attacker, shoot him after he opens fire on security forces

An Israeli soldier stands guard in the northern West Bank village of Salem, east of Nablus, on March 18, 2019, during a search operation for a Palestinian suspect. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)
An Israeli soldier stands guard in the northern West Bank village of Salem, east of Nablus, on March 18, 2019, during a search operation for a Palestinian suspect. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

A Palestinian who killed an IDF soldier and Israeli civilian in a terror attack on Sunday was shot dead in a firefight with Israeli forces near Ramallah, following a two-day manhunt, Israeli officials said Tuesday.

Israeli troops surrounded a building in Abwein on Tuesday night where Omar Abu Laila, 18, was hiding out, according to the Shin Bet security service and police.

As they circled the structure “the perpetrator opened fire at our forces and was killed in the exchange of fire,” an official statement from Israeli authorities said.

There were no Israeli injuries.

Omar Abu Laila, 18, the suspected terrorist in a fatal attack at Ariel Junction on March 17, 2019 (Facebook)

Troops had been carrying out intensive searches for Abu Laila since Sunday, after he fled into a Palestinian town after fatally stabbing a soldier, stealing his gun and opening fire on passing vehicles, killing a rabbi and wounding a soldier.

Clashes were reported between Israeli troops and local Palestinians during and after the operation.

The official PA news site Wafa said earlier that a Palestinian was wounded by Israeli fire during the clashes that broke out in Abwein. The news site said he was transported to a hospital in Ramallah for treatment.

According to Wafa, Israeli security forces circled the home after cutting its power lines and calling on a person inside through megaphones to surrender.

Ma’an, a Bethlehem-based Palestinian news outlet, said two Palestinians were wounded in Abwein during “violent clashes” with Israeli security forces. Ma’an also said troops opened fire at the building, after calling on the suspect to turn himself in and threatening to demolish the structure.

Videos posted on social media purporting to be from the scene showed heavy fighting.

פורסם על ידי ‏موقع عبوين‏ ב- יום שלישי, 19 במרץ 2019

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who earlier in the day told the family of Rabbi Achiad Ettinger, slain in the attack, that he would seek to legislate a death penalty punishment for terrorists, praised the forces who carried out the manhunt.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) pays a condolence call to the family of Rabbi Achiad Ettinger in the West Bank settlement of Eli, March 19, 2019 (Haim Zach/GPO)

“Israel’s long arm will reach all those who hurt our citizens and soldiers,” he said, according to his office.

According to Israeli authorities, Abu Laila fatally stabbed Sgt. Gal Keidan at the Ariel junction, grabbed the soldier’s gun and opened fire at passing vehicles, hitting Rabbi Ettinger, before stealing a vehicle and fleeing the scene. The terrorist then drove to the nearby Gitai junction, where he opened fire again, wounding soldier Alexander Dvorsky. He then fled on foot into the nearby village of Burqin.

Mourners carry the body of 47-year-old rabbi Achiad Ettinger, who died from his injuries sustained a day earlier during a gun and knife terror attack, during his funeral in the West Bank settlement of Eli, on March 18, 2019. (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)

Ettinger, a father of 12, succumbed to his injuries Monday morning.

Ettinger’s wife Tamar praised the operation, but called for the government to go further in taking action against the killer and his family.

“We expect from the government of Israel that it fight to eradicate this terrorism, and that it go further and expel the terrorist’s family, his entire family, and his entire village,” Tamar Ettinger said.

Rabbi Achiad Ettinger, who was shot March 17 at the Ariel junction and succumbed to his injuries the following day (Nadav Goldstein/TPS)

Authorities have already ordered work be started to demolish Abu Laila’s family home, a controversial tactic Israel defends as a deterrent against future attacks.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan praised the police officers who carried out the raid, and vowed to “continue to hunt down” terrorists who attack Israelis.

Overnight, forces combed the suspect’s home village of Zawiya near the West Bank city of Ariel, where the attack took place.

IDF soldier Gal Keidan, who was killed in a stabbing and shooting attack by a Palestinian terrorist in the northern West Bank on March 17, 2019. (IDF Spokesperson)

On Tuesday morning, Israel Radio reported that the manhunt was shifting to intelligence gathering under the assumption that Abu Laila was holed up in a secure hideout.

It was not immediately clear how Abu Laila managed to move from Burqin, in the northern West Bank, to the Ramallah area, some 60 kilometers (35 miles) south.

IDF soldiers seen during a raid in the village of Bruqin near the West Bank town of Salfit on March 17, 2019. (Flash90)

It is still unknown if the terrorist acted alone before, during or after the attack. Because he appeared to know what he was doing with the weapon, he might have had military training, defense officials said.

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