Prime Minister Naftali Bennett vowed late Thursday that Israeli security forces would apprehend the terrorists behind the deadly attack in the city of Elad that killed three people and wounded several more and said Israel’s enemies would never break “our spirit.”
“Our enemies have set out on a campaign of murder against Jews,” Bennett said after a consultation with his security chiefs. “Their goal is to break our spirit, and they will fail.”
“We’ll put our hands on the terrorists and their collaborators, and they will pay the price. I send my condolences from the depth of my heart to the families of the murdered,” Bennett said.
Bennett had met with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, police chief Kobi Shabtai, Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, IDF chief Aviv Kohavi, the head of the Mossad and the head of the Shin Bet.
During the meeting, Bennett was briefed on the attack and efforts to apprehend the terrorists.
The attack came at the end of Israel’s Independence Day, and followed a wave of terror attacks in Israel and the West Bank in recent weeks, and repeated threats by Palestinian terror groups over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
According to eyewitnesses, two terrorists attacked several people with an axe and a knife at a central park and a nearby road in the largely ultra-Orthodox city. At least one of the wounded was in critical condition, and up to seven were hurt in the attack.
Barlev vowed to apprehend the attackers “dead or alive.”
“We paid a very heavy price tonight,” said Barlev. “The Police, Shin Bet, and the IDF are currently pursuing the terrorists who carried out the attack, and we will get our hands on them, dead or alive.”
Barlev said Israel would take the fight against “unbridled Palestinian terror” and hit them with “all our force in the villages, cities and refugee camps.”
During the meeting it was also decided to extend the closure on West Bank and Gaza Palestinians until Sunday, the Defense Ministry said.
Gantz vowed that the defense establishment “would exact a price for the terror attacks and the incitement,” without providing details.
The closure was put in place on Tuesday afternoon, ahead of Memorial Day and Independence Day, and was supposed to end overnight Thursday-Friday.
Lapid also condemned the terror attack, saying that “the joy of Independence Day is cut short in an instant.”
“The murderous terror attack in Elad is horrifying to the heart and soul,” he said. “I send condolences from the depth of my heart to the families that lost a loved one this evening, and pray with all of Israel for the safety of the injured.”
Shortly after the attack, several dozen far-right activists led by MK Itamar Ben Gvir converged on the town where they held a protest chanting “Bennett go home.”
Ben Gvir called for widespread arrests and stepped up targeted killings against terror leaders.
He also clashed with Barlev, calling him a “complete failure.”
Ben Gvir’s presence in Elad drew significant opposition from local residents who called on him to leave.
Shlomo Linder, a local resident accused Ben Gvir of inciting violence.
“The ultra-Orthodox were never on the extreme right-wing,” Linder told the Kan public broadcaster. “Someone came from the settlement movement, inciting the youth here,” he said referring to Ben Gvir stoking tensions within Israel, and between Jews and Arabs.
“The ultra-Orthodox do not believe in killing brothers. We don’t believe in things like that, and do not believe in killing Arabs,” he said. “Ben Gvir should go to where he lives. Not here in Elad to incite our youth,” he says. “The Haredi mainstream is against fascism. We don’t call for murder.”
Palestinian terror groups praised the attack, although none immediately took responsibility.
The Hamas terror group called the attack “a heroic operation” in response to Jewish Israelis visiting the Temple Mount holy site earlier Thursday. Hundreds visited the flashpoint hilltop, which is Judaism’s holiest site and Islam’s third-holiest, in the first time since Passover. The site was closed to Jewish visitors for the end of Ramadan.
Earlier Thursday, Palestinians clashed with police on the Temple Mount after the site was reopened for Jews after the two-week closure. Hamas had threatened to retaliate if Jewish visitors were allowed to “storm” the holy site.
“Our people will continue their struggle and their defense of the Al-Aqsa Mosque with every means. Their blows will strike the Zionists and the settlers wherever they are,” said Hamas spokesperson Abd al-Latif al-Qanou.
In a speech last Saturday, Hamas’s Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar threatened violent consequences should Israelis continue visiting the site. He also called on West Bank Palestinians to commit individual attacks against Israelis.
“This is the practical implementation of what the resistance warned: Al-Aqsa is a red line,” Hamas official Hazem Qasim said.
Islamic Jihad also praised the Elad attack as a “heroic operation.”
“For settler gangs to defile Al-Aqsa — this crosses red lines,” senior terror group member Mohammad Hmeid said.
The attack came as tensions have risen sharply between Israel and the Palestinians in recent weeks, against the backdrop of repeated terror attacks in Israel and the West Bank that left 16 others dead.
Thursday’s attack brought the number of people killed in terror attacks in Israel and the West Bank since March 21 this year, to 19.
The army has stepped up its West Bank activities in an attempt to crack down on the spiraling violence. The ensuing raids sparked clashes that left at least 26 Palestinians dead. Many of those took part in the clashes, while others appeared to have been civilians.
In an unusual move, Hamas’s military wing claimed a shooting attack in the West Bank settlement of Ariel on Friday that left an Israeli security guard dead.
The “heroic” attack “will not be the last one, with God’s help,” the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades said.
Palestinians and Israeli forces have clashed repeatedly at the Temple Mount over the past few weeks. The violence echoed scenes from last year, when rioting at the site helped spark a war between Israel and Gaza-based terror groups led by Hamas.
Ever since the May 2021 war, Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel, has threatened to fire rockets at Israel if it violated the organization’s “red lines” in Jerusalem. The terror group has hailed its “deterrence” against Israel in the contested capital as a key achievement of the war, which wrought widespread destruction in Gaza.
Sinwar said on Saturday that the terror group “will not hesitate to take any steps” if Israel “violates” Al-Aqsa Mosque.