IDF hunts for armed Palestinian suspected of killing 2 in terror shooting
Military says assault at northern West Bank factory was a ‘serious terror attack’; gunman, who had no known terrorist ties, was employed by the business, knew the victims
Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.
The Israel Defense Forces on Sunday declared the fatal shooting in an industrial park in the northern West Bank to be a “severe terror attack” and said large numbers of troops, including special forces, were involved in the search for the suspected gunman, who was still believed to be armed.
Shortly before 8 a.m., the suspect, a 23-year-old Palestinian man from the northern West Bank, entered a factory where he was employed in the Barkan Industrial Park, near the Ariel settlement-city, armed with a locally produced Carlo-style submachine gun, according to army spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus.
Inside, he shot dead an Israeli man and a woman. The female victim was first handcuffed and then shot at close range, according to eyewitnesses. The gunman also shot a second woman, 54, in the stomach. She was moderately wounded and taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.
The woman who was killed in the attack was identified as Kim Levengrond Yehezkel, 28, from Rosh Ha’ayin, and the man was named as Ziv Hajbi, 35, from Rishon Lezion.
After the attack, the suspect fled the scene of the attack, still armed with the submachine gun, the military said.
A worker at the factory who was nearby told reporters that the terrorist also tried to shoot at him as he fled the scene. The worker, who carried a gun, fired back a shot at the gunman, but apparently missed.
The suspect’s Carlo submachine gun reportedly jammed during his attack, preventing him from firing additional shots. That type of locally produced firearm, which is known to be highly inaccurate and prone to malfunctions, has been tied to a number of terror attacks in recent years, owing to its low price and wide availability in the West Bank.
The factory worker said he recognized the suspect as an electrician who worked at the company.
“He has not yet been apprehended. We know that he is still armed and is considered dangerous,” Conricus said. “We do not know if he plans to carry out another terror attack or if he is just fleeing, but we assume he is still dangerous.”
The IDF, Shin Bet security service and Israel Police, including special forces units, launched a manhunt for the gunman, and deployed additional troops throughout the West Bank in order to prevent “copycat” incidents — a common phenomenon after high-profile terror attacks.
The suspect worked at the Alon Group factory — which manufactures waste management systems — where he committed the attack, and had a legal work permit. He was acquainted with his victims, according to Conricus.
He had been absent from work in the days before the shooting, but was still employed by the factory, according to the spokesperson, who refuted earlier media reports that he had been fired.
“We know that there were other factors involved, that it wasn’t a pure-and-simple terror attack,” Conricus said, referring to speculation that the attack was the action of a disgruntled worker.
“But we know from various sources, which we cannot share today but may in the future, that this was a terror attack,” he said.
The IDF would not release the suspect’s name, but said he was from the northern West Bank village of Shuweika, near Tulkarem.
Earlier in the day, he had posted on his Facebook page earlier in the day that he was “waiting for [Allah].”
According to the IDF, the suspect had no history of terrorist activities and was not tied to any terror groups, though several of them applauded his actions.
Palestinian media reported road closures and checkpoints throughout the northern West Bank as security forces searched for the suspect.
Security camera video from the scene appeared to show him fleeing after the attack, with the Carlo submachine gun in hand.
The businesses in the Barkan Industrial Park, located near Ariel, employ some 8,000 people, approximately half of them Israelis and the other half Palestinians.
“This is a very difficult incident. Until now there have not been any security incidents here. For decades, industrial zones have served as a bridge of coexistence,” Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan said.
Shai Amichai, the director general of the industrial zone, also described the location as a good example of Israelis and Palestinians working side by side.
“Both in the industrial area and in the community itself, the cooperation is fruitful,” he told the Ynet news site. “We are in a relationship of neighborliness and professional relations at the highest level. The residents feel secure in their workplace, and many forge connections outside of their place of work.
“I do not know the security procedures of the zone,” added Amichai. “But there was no decrease in the number of security forces in the region, neither overt nor undercover.”
The mayor of the nearby city of Ariel, Eli Shviro, said in a statement that “the industrial zones in which Jews and Palestinians work together are the path to coexistence in our region.”
In 2015, a Palestinian stabbed and injured two security guards at the same industrial park. Guards at the site shot and killed the attacker during that incident.
Jacob Magid contributed to this report.