Israeli troops launched a manhunt in the northern West Bank on Tuesday night, after a fatal terror attack in which an Israeli rabbi was shot dead while driving down a highway outside Nablus, the army said.
Palestinian media reported that Israeli troops had closed down roads in the area and had begun entering nearby Palestinian villages in a search for the terrorists behind the shooting.
The military confirmed that it had set up road closures around the Nablus area, following a “situational assessment” by the head of the army’s Central Command, Maj. Gen. Roni Numa, the head of the Judea and Samaria Division, Brig. Gen. Eran Niv, and the head of the Samaria Brigade, Col. Gilad Amit.
“A number of actions were decided upon in order to locate the terrorists who committed the shooting attack, including security checks upon entrances and exits to and from the city of Nablus and placing forces and security crossings across the city,” the army said.
“Additional forces were called to the scene in order to complete missions in the area,” the military said in a statement.
Following the shooting attack outside the Havat Gilad outpost, settlers from the nearby Yitzhar community entered the adjacent Palestinian village of Burin and began throwing rocks at Palestinian residents, the Israel Defense Forces said.
IDF soldiers who arrived at the scene dispersed the rock-throwing settlers, an army spokesperson said.
There were no reports of serious injuries.
In a tweet, MK Bezalel Smotrich, of the right-wing Jewish Home party, said that “if they don’t want the grieving public to take the law into its own hands, then the system needs to do something.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Twitter said Israeli “security forces will do everything possible in order to reach the foul murderer, and the State of Israel will bring him to justice.”
In a rare move, the Hamas terrorist group’s military wing released a statement praising the attack, calling it “heroic” and a sign of future attacks to come, though the organization did not take responsibility for the shooting.
“The attack outside Nablus is the first real response to show the leaders of the enemies and those that are behind them (the United States), that things that you fear — are coming,” Hamas said in a statement, according to the Ynet news site.
Israeli defense officials have repeatedly warned that Hamas is looking to carry out terror attacks in the West Bank.
Shortly before 8:00 p.m., 35-year-old father of six Rabbi Raziel Shevach was driving in his car on the highway near his home in the Havat Gilad outpost when shots were fired at him from a passing car.
Shevach was shot in the neck, but managed to call his wife and tell her to call an ambulance.
Civilian and military medics rushed to the scene and tried to stop the bleeding as they took him to Kfar Saba’s Meir Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Soldiers immediately began searching the area for the shooters.
Shevach’s funeral will be held at the Havat Gilad outpost at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
The head of the local settler council, Yossi Dagan, harshly criticized the government for failing to install security cameras in the area.
“If they had been (installed), these vile murderers would have been caught. Raziel was killed near the community of Gilad Farms, where there are no security apparatuses, despite repeated requests from my regional council,” Dagan said in a statement.
“This terrible attack should be a tremendous warning sign,” he added.
In November, Dagan launched a hunger strike along with representatives of bereaved families calling on the government to immediately transfer funds to improve West Bank’s security infrastructure. The campaign ended with an agreement signed by Netanyahu which puts in writing a pledge to include NIS 800 million ($228 million) in the 2018 budget to be used for West Bank roads and infrastructure development.
In December, the government approved an additional NIS 40 million ($11.5 million) grant for Israeli local and regional councils in the West Bank. Yesha settlement umbrella council spokesman Yigal Dilmoni told The Times of Israel then that the allocation is merely an allocation that the settlements receive annually.
Jacob Magid contributed to this report.