An unarmed Palestinian man was shot and killed after entering into a West Bank settlement outpost in the predawn hours of Friday morning and attempting to break into a home, the Israel Defense Forces said, calling the infiltrator a terrorist.
A military spokesperson said the decision to label the incident an attempted terror attack and its description of the event were based almost solely on the testimonies of the settlers involved in the incident. This included details that they likely could not have known.
According to the army, the man, who was unarmed, drove past the gates and through the illegally constructed Sde Ephraim Farm outpost in the northern West Bank to the home of the owner at 3:45 a.m.
The military said the suspect — Khaled Maher Nofal, a 34-year-old resident of the village next door, Ras Karkar, according to Palestinian media — “ran toward the house” from his car. However, at this stage no one else was present at the scene nor were there security cameras to capture the moment, so it was not clear how the IDF determined how he approached the home.
According to the IDF, Nofal attempted to break into the house, but it was locked.
The settlers involved told the military that the man shouted “allahu akhbar” (“God is great”) while attempting to break into the home, which alerted an Israeli man in the building next door to what was going on, prompting him to shout for others to come outside.
Nofal then ran at the man, who was also unarmed, and “tackled and fought with him,” the army said.
A second Israeli man who had come outside as well as the owner of the farm, who were both armed with pistols, then shot and killed Nofal, the IDF said. No other injuries were reported.
“The body of the terrorist and his car were searched by sappers, and no weapon was found in the terrorist’s possession,” the military said.
It was not immediately clear why the army deemed the man to be a terrorist, as opposed to a burglar or a common criminal. An army spokesperson said that Nofal’s actions indicated an attempt to cause harm, though he acknowledged that the lack of a weapon was out of the ordinary if Nofal had indeed intended to carry out an attack of some kind.
A spokesperson for the IDF’s Judea and Samaria Division said that Nofal had a “personal history,” but refused to elaborate.
The Sde Ephraim Farm outpost was established illegally on a hilltop that had been part of Ras Karkar, known as Risan. Settlers from the outpost have clashed with local Palestinians in the area in the past.
The head of the Ras Karkar council, Radi Abu Fkheyda, told The Times of Israel that Nofal, who was married and had a four-year-old son, was a local tax assessor who worked for the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Finance in nearby Ramallah.
“It’s an unclear situation: his family didn’t know he had left in the middle of the night to go to Risan,” said Abu Fkheyda. “This young man had a steady job as a government clerk in Ramallah, assessing property taxes. No one knows why he went there.”
According to Abu Fkheyda, Nofal’s family owned a piece of land in Risan close to Sde Ephraim. He said while he did not know what happened in the settlement, but believed there had been no justification to shoot Nofal.
“The settlers regularly bother us and even sometimes throw stones and are violent. We see that the army backs them up. The army should investigate what happened, but they won’t,” Abu Fkheyda said.
Following the incident, IDF troops raided Ras Karkar. According to Palestinian media, the soldiers detained Nofal’s father and brother, bringing them to the scene of the crime to identify his belongings.