IDF arrests suspected terrorists behind deadly Jericho attack as victim is buried
Military says two suspects behind killing of US-Israeli Elan Ganeles apprehended in Aqabat Jabr refugee camp, third suspect shot dead while trying to flee
Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.
Israeli troops on Wednesday afternoon arrested the alleged terrorists who carried out a deadly shooting attack two days earlier near the West Bank city of Jericho, as the victim was being buried. One Palestinian suspect was killed during the raid.
The Israel Defense Forces said soldiers and Border Police officers entered the Aqabat Jabr refugee camp adjacent to Jericho, following intelligence information given to them by the Shin Bet security agency.
Two Palestinian men suspected of carrying out the attack on Monday that left dual American-Israeli citizen Elan Ganeles dead were detained, the IDF said.
A third suspect who was with the two alleged gunmen was shot while attempting to flee, the IDF added. He was also detained by the troops, but later succumbed to his wounds.
Speaking to reporters after the raid, Col. Meir Biderman, the commander of the 417th Regional Brigade, said that on Tuesday night the Shin Bet notified the army of a potential breakthrough in the hunt for the terrorists, and on Wednesday they were given their exact position.
Biderman said the troops began preparing on Tuesday evening and immediately began the operation when the terrorists’ location was confirmed.
The troops entered the camp, closed in on the building where the gunmen were holed up, and launched missiles at it, in a tactic known as a “pressure cooker,” to flush the suspects out, he said.
Dark smoke was seen rising from a building in the camp.
“They came out with raised hands and showed us the location of the weapon with which they carried out the attack,” Biderman said.
The IDF said troops seized the handgun, which was likely the one used in the attack on Monday.
The third suspect who was shot was taken to a hospital in Israel in serious condition. He later succumbed to his wounds.
The Palestinian Authority health ministry identified him as 22-year-old Mahmoud Jamal Hassan Hamdan.
Biderman said a fourth suspect who tried to flee the hideout apartment was also detained.
The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry said one person was being treated for minor injuries amid clashes with troops in the camp.
Ganeles, 26, was being buried in the central city of Ra’anana as the operation took place.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement said he “salutes the IDF and the Shin Bet for locating the terrorists in a short time and carrying out a precise operation.”
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant also hailed the successful operation.
“Every terrorist should be aware of Israel’s defense establishment, we will get our hands on them,” he said in remarks provided by his office.
Ganeles, who was visiting Israel for a wedding, was shot to death while driving near Jericho.
During the attack, two gunmen arrived by car on the Route 90 highway, close to the Nevo military base, and opened fire at Ganeles’ vehicle, according to the IDF.
The terrorists then continued driving and opened fire at another car near the Beit Ha’arava Junction, before continuing and shooting at a third car nearby, the IDF said. The passengers in those vehicles were not injured.
The IDF and police said the gunmen set fire to their car as they fled the area toward Jericho.
Roadblocks were set up in the area following the attack, and troops had been questioning Palestinians entering and exiting Jericho.
“From the moment of the attack, we carried out security checks at all of Jericho’s exits and entrances, the purpose of which was to prevent the attackers from leaving the city, and they really stayed in Jericho,” Biderman said.
The identity of the suspects detained over the attack on Wednesday was not immediately published. Biderman said he didn’t know if the gunmen had an affiliation with a larger terror group.
He said he believed the relative security stability in the Jericho area would remain, while tensions in other areas of the West Bank have been high.
Last month, five gunmen affiliated with the Hamas terror group were killed in a raid on Aqabat Jabr. Two of them had allegedly been responsible for an attempted shooting attack at a restaurant at the nearby Almog Junction.
The five were believed to be part of a wider Hamas-affiliated armed group in the Aqabat Jabr.
In recent months, Palestinian gunmen have repeatedly targeted military posts and troops operating along the West Bank security barrier, Israeli settlements and civilians on the roads.
Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians have been high for the past year, with the IDF conducting near-nightly raids in the West Bank amid a series of deadly Palestinian terror attacks.
Israeli forces were meanwhile still searching for the gunman who killed two Israeli brothers from the West Bank settlement of Har Bracha in the nearby Palestinian town of Huwara on Sunday.
Violence has spiked since the killing of Hallel Yaniv, 21, and Yagel Yaniv, 19.
Settlers seeking revenge rampaged through Huwara hours later, further inflaming the volatile situation. One Palestinian was killed and scores were hurt amid the violence.
Eight Israeli suspects detained on the night of the rioting were released, three of them to house arrest, according to law enforcement officials. Another six were detained by police early Wednesday, one of whom was released by the afternoon.