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Jordan Valley bus attackers are family members; one, still on the loose, is Israeli

Senior officer says perpetrator, married to Israeli woman, managed to flee scene after son and nephew jumped out of burning truck, following attempt to torch bus; manhunt ongoing

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Israeli security forces stand next to a burnt car allegedly used by the suspects who carried out a shooting attack on a bus in the Jordan Valley, September 4, 2022. (Flash90)
Israeli security forces stand next to a burnt car allegedly used by the suspects who carried out a shooting attack on a bus in the Jordan Valley, September 4, 2022. (Flash90)

Israeli troops on Sunday launched a manhunt for a third member of a cell that opened fire at a bus carrying soldiers earlier Sunday, wounding seven people, with a senior military official saying the trio were family members and the suspect on the lam holds Israeli citizenship.

On Sunday afternoon, a pickup truck with three suspects overtook the bus in the Jordan Valley and opened fire at the windshield, seriously wounding the civilian driver, as well as six other soldiers who were listed in moderate and light conditions.

The gunmen also attempted during the attack to pour flammable liquid on the bus to set it alight, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The trio fled after soldiers on the bus opened fire toward them, and, after about two kilometers, their car caught fire, likely from the material they attempted to pour on the bus, according to the IDF’s initial probe. The trio’s pickup truck had Israeli, not Palestinian, license plates.

The senior official told reporters that the three are relatives — a father, a son, and the elder’s nephew.

Two of the gunmen — the son and nephew — jumped out of the burning vehicle and were promptly arrested by soldiers and police officers. Two firearms were located nearby.

Israeli soldiers inspect the site of a shooting attack on a bus transporting soldiers in the Jordan Valley, on September 4, 2022. (Flash90)

They were named by Palestinian media as Muhammed and Walid Turkman, residents of the Jenin area in the northern West Bank. The pair was taken to be questioned by the Shin Bet security agency.

The third suspect, the father, left the car about 200 meters from where the other two jumped out, the senior officer said, as it continued to roll while on fire. He managed to flee the scene as the soldiers arrested the pair.

According to the officer, the father, in his 50s, is married to an Israeli woman from the Galilee town of Jadeidi-Makr, and therefore has Israeli citizenship. However, the military believes the suspected gunmen spend most of their time in the Jenin and Jericho areas.

Col. Meir Biderman, the commander of the 417th territorial brigade, said IDF forces were continuing to hunt for the additional member of the cell. “We won’t rest until we catch all of them,” he said.

Israeli police inspect weapons used in a shooting attack by Palestinian gunmen, in the West Bank’s Jordan Valley, September 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

The IDF was still investigating whether the gunmen knew that the bus, attacked near the settlement of Hamra, was carrying troops when they opened fire.

The bus — taking mostly unarmed troops to a training base — was not armored, unlike buses that travel deeper in the West Bank.

The officer said the drive-by attack was “an unusual event that we have not known for a long time, and certainly not in the Jordan Valley.”

Members of the Israeli security forces and emergency services inspect the site of a shooting attack on a bus transporting soldiers in the Jordan Valley, on September 4, 2022. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Last month, shots were fired at an Israeli bus traveling along Route 60, the West Bank’s main north-south highway, near the Ofra settlement. The bus was full at the time of the attack and at least eight bullet holes were found on the bus’s windows and body, but no injuries were caused.

Tensions have escalated in the West Bank recently, with Israeli security forces stepping up arrest raids and operations following a deadly wave of terror attacks that left 19 people dead earlier this year.

The past week alone saw a number of attacks, as Palestinian gunmen fired at several military posts across the West Bank, and a soldier was stabbed near Hebron. There were also numerous stone-throwing attacks on Israeli civilians driving in the West Bank.

“We are in a very complex period here which is not over yet,” the senior officer said. “The area is boiling, and that’s a fact.”

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