Two top politicians on Monday said security forces had apprehended the terrorists behind Friday’s deadly bombing attack in the central West Bank, prompting an unusual statement from the Shin Bet security service denying the claim.
Israel has been searching since Friday for the culprits behind the bombing in which a 17-year-old girl was killed and her father and brother were seriously wounded.
Former defense minister Avigdor Liberman posted the information on Twitter, before deleting his tweet as it violated a gag order.
“Congratulations to security forces and IDF soldiers who caught the vile terrorists who murdered Rina Shnerb — may her memory be blessed — and injured her father, Rabbi Eitan, and her brother, Dvir,” he wrote.
A Liberman spokesperson later took responsibility for the glitch, telling Channel 13 news that she had been incorrectly informed that the announcement had been cleared by the censor for release, and had passed it along to the MK.
Yamina party head and former justice minister Ayelet Shaked also tweeted that “we heard about the capture of the murderers while I was meeting [Rina’s mother] Shira Shnerb and her family.”
In a rare move, the Shin Bet contradicted the former ministers’ claims, saying the search effort was still underway.
“The statements regarding the capture of the terrorists who committed the attack in Dolev do not express the opinion of the Shin Bet nor did they receive approval from the Shin Bet, which is leading the investigation,” the security service said.
“The investigation into the terror attack is in full swing, and [people] must wait until it is completed, and for the official and certified statements regarding the results.”
At approximately 10 a.m. Friday the explosive device was detonated at the natural spring, known as Ein Bubin, near the Dolev settlement northwest of Ramallah, as three members of the Shnerb family from the central Israeli town of Lod were visiting.
Rina Shnerb was pronounced dead at the scene. Her father, Eitan, a rabbi in Lod, and her brother Dvir, 19, were taken by military helicopter to a Jerusalem hospital with serious injuries. Their condition improved through the weekend and they were set to be moved out of intensive care, a doctor told media Sunday.
Police sappers determined that the bomb — an improvised explosive device — had been planted earlier at the spring and was triggered remotely when the family approached it.
The Israel Defense Forces, Shin Bet security service and Israel Police launched a manhunt to find the bombers, setting up roadblocks, collecting surveillance camera footage and detaining suspects.
Palestinian media reported that multiple people were arrested in the Ramallah area in the predawn hours of Monday morning, including two brothers — Aysar and Talat Marouf — from the village of Ein Qiniya, next to Dolev. A third Marouf brother had reportedly been arrested on Friday after the attack as part of the manhunt.
On Sunday, the IDF also seized a car matching the description of a getaway vehicle from the Dolev attack.
Rina Shnerb’s funeral was held in her hometown of Lod on Friday afternoon. She was remembered by friends as a “happy and sweet girl, pleasing and warm with good energy. The highest quality and sweetest girl there is.”
Israeli military officials warned in the weeks preceding the attack of an increase in terrorist activities and violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the lead-up to next month’s Israeli elections.
The previous Friday, a Palestinian terrorist rammed his car into two Israeli teenage siblings, critically injuring one of them, outside the Elazar settlement in the central West Bank, just south of Jerusalem. The car rolled over after the terror attack, and when the assailant tried to emerge from it, he was shot dead by an off-duty police officer who was driving behind him.
A week before that, an Israeli yeshiva student, Dvir Sorek, was found stabbed to death outside the settlement of Migdal Oz. Israeli security forces tracked down the suspected killers in approximately 48 hours, arresting Palestinian cousins, Nasir Asafra, 24, and Qassem Asafra, 30, from the village of Beit Kahil in the southern West Bank.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.