Hamas and Islamic Jihad praise deadly West Bank terror shootings

Hamas calls spree ‘heroic’ and ‘courageous’; Islamic Jihad spokesman says ‘we are tightly holding the operative’s hand’

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Illustrative. IDF soldiers near the scene of a shooting attack near the northern West Bank Ariel Junction on March 17, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
Illustrative. IDF soldiers near the scene of a shooting attack near the northern West Bank Ariel Junction on March 17, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups praised a pair of shooting attacks in the northern West Bank on Sunday, in which one Israeli was killed and two others were critically wounded, calling them “heroic.”

Early Sunday, close to the Ariel Junction, a terrorist fatally assaulted a soldier with a knife and managed to gain control of his weapon, an IDF spokesman said.

The attacker then fired at multiple passing vehicles, hitting two cars and injuring a civilian, and then took another person’s automobile and fled in it, the spokesman said.

The suspect drove to the nearby Gitai Junction, where he shot at a soldier standing at a hitchhiking post, wounding him, and then continued on to Bruqin, an Palestinian village where Israeli security forces were pursuing him, the spokesman added.

“Hamas praises the heroic Salfit operation that happened this morning, which came in response to the occupation’s crimes,” Hamas said in a statement posted on its official Telegram account, referring to a Palestinian town near Gitai Junction. “This courageous and bold operation affirms that resistance, in all of its forms, is the most powerful and successful option to deter the occupation, foil its plans and protect and defend our people’s rights and holy sites.”

IDF soldiers respond to a shooting attack near the Ariel Junction in the northern West Bank on March 17, 2019. (B’Lev Hadashot)

The terror group frequently praises shooting, ramming and stabbing attacks against Israelis and often calls on Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to rise up against the Jewish state.

Islamic Jihad spokesman Daoud Shehab said, “We praise this operation and are tightly holding the operative’s hand,” according to the Islamic Jihad-linked Palestine Today.

He also said that the terror group salutes “the heroes in the revolutionary West Bank.”

Iran is believed to be a major backer of both Hamas and Islamic Jihad’s military wings.

The two injured people, one 19 and one 47, were taken to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, the Magen David Adom rescue service said.  The younger victim sustained abdominal and spinal injuries and was being prepped for surgery, the hospital said.

The older victim’s condition deteriorated to critical by the time he arrived at the hospital with head injuries and doctors were fighting to keep him alive, the spokesperson note, the hospital added. He was identified as Achiad Ettinger, a father of 12 from the Eli settlement.

Additional forces were deployed to the northern West Bank in a manhunt that the IDF was coordinating with the Shin Bet security service and the Israel Police, the IDF spokesman said. It was not immediately clear whether the suspect was affiliated with any terror groups or if he was acting alone.

As a precaution, the army briefly ordered the closing of the nearby Barkan industrial zone as well as the surrounding northern West Bank settlements, according to the IDF. The Palestinian villages of Jamain, Kifl Haris and Deir Istiya near Nablus were also sealed, the IDF said.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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