Manhunt for terrorists who shot at Ofra bus stop, injuring 7, enters second day
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Pipe bomb found, and minor riots, at Joseph's Tomb in Nablus

Manhunt for terrorists who shot at Ofra bus stop, injuring 7, enters second day

IDF troops enter Palestinian villages in search of gunmen who fired at civilians; injuries of pregnant woman hit in attack improve, her baby’s condition worsens

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Israeli soldiers search for gunmen who opened fire at a bus stop outside the West Bank settlement of Ofra, injuring seven people, on December 9, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
Israeli soldiers search for gunmen who opened fire at a bus stop outside the West Bank settlement of Ofra, injuring seven people, on December 9, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israeli military’s search for a group of terrorists who opened fire at Israeli civilians waiting at a bus stop outside the West Bank settlement of Ofra, injuring seven people including a pregnant woman, entered its second day on Monday, with troops setting up roadblocks and sweeping nearby Palestinian villages.

Just before 9:30 p.m. on Sunday, shots were fired from a passing car at the Ofra bus stop, which was full of people following a communal Hannukah event.

In security camera video of the shooting, posted to social media, a white car is seen slowing down near the bus stop, after which bullets can be seen striking the crowd who scramble for cover. The car, which comes to a stop for a few moments while the shooting apparently continues, then speeds off down the road as IDF soldiers are seen running to bus stop.

The white car was believed to have at least two occupants.

Seven people were hit by the gunfire, including a seven-month pregnant woman who was critically injured.

Doctors were able to perform an emergency Cesarean section on her and deliver the baby on Sunday night. The conditions of the mother and child remained precarious as of Monday morning.

The baby boy was immediately transferred to the ward for premature babies at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center. Initially said to be in “stable” condition, the hospital said Monday the baby’s condition worsened, apparently as a result of his mother’s blood loss from her injuries. He was hooked up to a ventilator and undergoing treatment in the neonatal intensive care unit.

The 21-year-old mother underwent surgery late Sunday and was initially said to be “fighting for her life” after she suffered wounds to her upper body, but on Monday morning the hospital said her condition had stabilized but remained serious.

A man in his early twenties was hospitalized with moderate injuries, and two 16-year-old girls with light injuries were taken to Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem in the capital, medics said.

On Monday morning, the Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital said the pregnant woman’s husband underwent surgery and was in a stable condition, downgrading the severity of his injuries to mild-to-moderate.

After the attack, Israel Defense Forces quickly launched a search for the gunmen, shutting down roads and establishing temporary checkpoints on the surrounding highways on Sunday night.

“IDF soldiers, Border Police officers and security forces are searching the villages in the area. At the same time, the IDF’s intelligence efforts are continuing,” the army said Monday.

“The IDF will continue to act until the terrorists are captured and security is restored to residents,” the military added.

Israeli soldiers search for gunmen who opened fire at a bus stop outside the West Bank settlement of Ofra, injuring seven people, on December 9, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

During the searches, Israeli troops entered the town of Silwad, outside Ramallah and just north of Ofra, late Sunday night, according to the Palestinian Authority’s Wafa news outlet.

In Silwad, local residents clashed with the Israeli troops, throwing rocks and other objects at the military vehicles. In response, the soldiers fired tear gas and other less-lethal riot dispersal weapons at the rioters, according to Wafa.

Israeli soldiers search for gunmen who opened fire at a bus stop outside the West Bank settlement of Ofra, injuring seven people, on December 9, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

No Palestinian injuries were reported.

The northern entrance to al-Bireh, a town adjacent to Ramallah, was also closed in both directions on Sunday night, Wafa reported.

In addition to the search efforts, Israeli troops escorted some 7,500 Jewish worshipers to four pilgrimage sites in the West Bank for the last night of the eight-day Hanukkah holiday.

Most of the pilgrims traveled to Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs, while others visited the Joseph’s Tomb holy site in Nablus, the ancient city Beit Zur outside the Hebron suburb of Halhul, and the old synagogue in the village of as-Samu, also near Hebron.

During sweeps of the area before worshipers arrived, Israeli troops found a pipe bomb hidden inside the Joseph’s Tomb site in Nablus. It was disarmed by military sappers.

Israeli soldiers escort thousands of Jewish worshippers to Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs holy site on December 10, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

Riots broke out as Israeli troops led the worshipers into Nablus, with local residents throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at the soldiers. No Israeli soldiers were injured nor was any damage caused to their vehicles.

The troops responded with less-lethal riot dispersal weapons. No Palestinians were reported injured.

Israeli soldiers escort hundreds of Jewish worshipers to the Joseph’s Tomb holy site in Nablus in the northern West Bank on December 10, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

Elsewhere in the West Bank, security forces from the IDF, Border Police and Shin Bet security service conducted arrest raids, picking up 16 Palestinian suspects.

They were suspected of taking part in terrorist activities, rock throwing and riots, the army said. The suspects were handed over to the Shin Bet for questioning.

Two months ago, a Palestinian terrorist shot dead two Israelis at the Barkan Industrial Park. He is still on the run.

Jacob Magid and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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