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IDF plans demolition of home of suspected shooter in deadly Tapuah attack

Troops map Muntasir Shalabi’s house in Turmus Ayya a day after his arrest for terror attack that killed 19-year-old Yehuda Guetta, injured 2 others

IDF troops map out the home of a Palestinian man suspected of carrying out a drive-by shooting, ahead of its potential demolition, in the West Bank village of Turmus Ayya, May 6, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF troops map out the home of a Palestinian man suspected of carrying out a drive-by shooting, ahead of its potential demolition, in the West Bank village of Turmus Ayya, May 6, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces on Thursday night mapped out the West Bank home of a Palestinian man suspected of carrying out a drive-by shooting attack at Tapuah junction that left one Israeli student dead and two injured, in preparation for its potential future demolition.

The IDF released a video of troops operating at the house in the village of Turmus Ayya, in the central West Bank.

Muntasir Shalabi, 47, is suspected of driving up to the Tapuah junction in the northern West Bank on Sunday and opening fire at a group of Israeli teenagers who were students at the nearby religious seminary at the Itamar settlement, fatally wounding one of them, seriously injuring a second and lightly wounding a third.

Israeli authorities often take punitive action such as home demolitions even before a conviction in cases of terrorist attacks. Jerusalem defends the practice of razing the family home of attackers as a deterrent against future assaults and officials have argued that speed is essential, claiming that the deterrent factor degrades over time.

Over the years, a number of Israeli defense officials have questioned the efficacy of the practice and human rights activists have denounced it as unfair collective punishment.

On Wednesday night, officers from the Israel Police’s Special Policing Unit and troops from the Israel Defense Forces, acting on intelligence gathered by the Shin Bet, raided a building in the central West Bank village of Silwad and took Shalabi into custody, the Shin Bet said in a statement.

Muntasir Shalabi, suspect in the West Bank drive-by shooting on May 1, 2021. (Courtesy)

Shalabi, a father-of-seven, is from the nearby town of Turmus Ayya and is not believed to have any affiliation with Palestinian terror groups, the security service said. He is suspected of evading capture with help from family and friends.

During the attack, soldiers from the IDF’s Givati Brigade who were at the scene returned fire, hitting the vehicle used and the terrorist driving it. Despite being shot, the gunman fled the scene, ditching the car used in the drive-by shooting in the nearby town of Aqraba where it was torched by locals on Monday as soldiers arrived to seize the vehicle.

The mapping of the site came a day after the funeral for 19-year-old Yehuda Guetta, a Jerusalem resident who was the most seriously injured among the three students shot at the Tapuah Junction bus stop on Sunday in the northern West Bank. He had been shot in the head and succumbed to his wounds on Thursday.

Yehuda Guetta, 19, was killed in a drive-by shooting in the West Bank (courtesy)

Guetta is survived by his parents, four brothers and two sisters.

The two other injured students were Benaya Peretz, 19, from Beit She’an, who was shot in the back, and remains in very serious condition, and Amichai Hala from Safed, also 19, who has been released from the hospital to recover from his wounds at home.

The attack came amid heightened tensions in the West Bank after the Palestinian Authority announced it was indefinitely delaying elections planned for later this month, blaming the decision on an ostensible Israeli refusal to allow PA voting in East Jerusalem.

The IDF also bolstered its forces in the West Bank for the month of Ramadan, a period that regularly sees an uptick in violence.

Additionally, tensions have flared in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah over the last week where dozens of Palestinians are at risk of being evicted following a long legal battle with right-wing Jewish Israelis trying to acquire property in the neighborhood, which is just north of Jerusalem’s Old City.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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