Manhunt continues for East Jerusalem shooter who killed soldier at checkpoint

Suspected gunman identified as Udai Tamimi, 22, of Shuafat refugee camp, currently at large following deadly shooting attack Saturday; shots also fired at West Bank settlement

Israeli security forces talk to passengers in traffic, October 9, 2022, after closing an entrance to the Palestinian town of Anata in the West Bank, as they conducted a manhunt for the suspected shooter in a deadly attack on Saturday, October 8, 2022, in which a female soldier was killed. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)
Israeli security forces talk to passengers in traffic, October 9, 2022, after closing an entrance to the Palestinian town of Anata in the West Bank, as they conducted a manhunt for the suspected shooter in a deadly attack on Saturday, October 8, 2022, in which a female soldier was killed. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

A manhunt for the suspected gunman who shot and killed a Border Police officer at an East Jerusalem checkpoint on Saturday was still underway Monday as the shooter continued to evade capture by Israeli security forces who were searching for him in and around the Shuafat refugee camp.

Sgt. Noa Lazar, 18, a member of the Military Police’s Erez battalion, was shot late Saturday along with a civilian guard when the gunman opened fire at a checkpoint near the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem. The guard was hospitalized in serious condition. Lazar was rushed to the hospital but died of her wounds shortly after.

In a separate incident early Monday, the Israel Defense Forces said Palestinian gunmen in a car targeted the West Bank settlement of Shavei Shomron, without causing any injuries. The military said troops opened fire at the gunmen’s vehicle, hitting it as they fled the area.

The suspected shooter in Saturday’s attack was named by Hebrew-language media as Udai Tamimi, a 22-year-old resident of the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem.

Israeli security forces have been searching for Tamimi since Saturday night, following the deadly shooting attack in which the gunman casually emerged from the passenger side of a white vehicle stopped at a checkpoint near Shuafat, walked up to a group of soldiers and opened fire from nearly point-blank range.

Video released Sunday showed the deadly incident where two soldiers fall to the ground after the shooting, and the others dive for cover.

Udai Tamimi, 22, of the Shuafat refugee camp, is the suspected shooter behind a deadly attack on Saturday, October 8, 2022, in which a female soldier was shot and killed at close range at a checkpoint near the camp in East Jerusalem. (Photo used in accordance with clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The gunman is seen continuing to shoot at one person on the ground before fleeing, apparently after his gun jammed.

According to a report by the Ynet news site, an initial investigation into the incident found that the gunman had shot eight bullets from point-blank range toward a group of soldiers at the checkpoint, without any of the personnel on-site managing to fire back and hit him.

The initial investigation found that the shooting took place just as soldiers were switching shifts, considered a tactical weak point at any checkpoint and requires increased security.

The incident is expected to lead to the dismissal of some of the commanders on the scene, Ynet reported.

Large numbers of police, troops and Shin Bet security service agents were looking for Tamimi, who appeared to slip into the Shuafat refugee camp after the killing, police said.

Four individuals suspected of aiding in the shooting attack were arrested overnight Saturday-Sunday, and were ordered to remain in custody until at least October 16 as the investigation continues, a police statement said Sunday.

According to Hebrew media reports, the suspect’s mother, father and brother have also been detained. The brother turned himself in for questioning by Israeli forces, as did the driver of the vehicle from which Tamimi emerged, Ynet reported.

Sgt. Noa Lazar, 18, who was killed in a shooting attack in East Jerusalem on October 8, 2022. (Israel Defence Forces)

The driver and three other passengers of the vehicle denied knowledge of Tamimi’s intentions, Haaretz reported.

Access to the Shuafat refugee camp and other areas of East Jerusalem were heavily restricted amid the manhunt and forces who pushed into Shuafat on Sunday were confronted by dozens of Palestinians, who threw rocks and shot fireworks at troops, according to police and video from the scene.

A helicopter was being used to scan the crowded area of East Jerusalem from the air, and special forces had also been deployed to bolster the search, police said.

Police said “riot dispersal methods” were used to clear out masked rioters.

Clashes resumed on Monday as forces appeared to focus efforts to locate Tamimi in the Shuafat area.

Police said one officer was lightly hurt by stones hurled amid the clashes, and three Palestinians suspected of rioting were detained.

Meanwhile, some restrictions placed on the camp immediately after the attack were lifted, according to the Kan public broadcaster. The Walla news site, however, reported that entry to Shuafat was still subject to strict inspections.

“The refugee camp is completely surrounded… It may take hours, days, but we’ll catch him,” Public Security Minister Omer Barlev told Kan Sunday. “This isn’t the first time that we see terrorists coming from East Jerusalem. This is a very difficult situation.”

On Sunday, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi visited the scene of the attack, at the checkpoint at the entrance to Shuafat, thanking guards manning the post but hinting at what appeared to be security failures that led to the incident.

“We will need to study the incident and draw conclusions in order to prevent similar incidents in the future — it is our responsibility and we will do so appropriately,” he told the troops during the Sunday afternoon visit.

A Palestinian gunman (circled in red) approaches a group of IDF soldiers and civilian guards, apparently undetected, at an East Jerusalem checkpoint on October 8, 2022. (Screencapture)

Police said the shooter was driven to the checkpoint by an accomplice who also eluded capture.

“The vehicle [that dropped off the assailant] continued until the driver abandoned it and escaped to the other direction to an area close to the Shuafat refugee camp, where he is most likely to have escaped to,” Barlev told Kan.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid offered condolences to Lazar’s family. “We will not be silent and we will not rest until we bring the abominable killers to justice,” he said.

The shooting came amid spiraling violence and increased tensions in the West Bank.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi meets commanders and soldiers positioned at a checkpoint near the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem, where a soldier was shot and killed by a Palestinian assailant, October 9, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Hours earlier on Saturday, two Palestinian teenagers were shot dead in an Israeli raid in the West Bank, as the United Nations warned that “mounting violence” in the territory was “fueling a climate of fear, hatred and anger.”

The shooting came a day before the start of the Sukkot holiday. Israel had planned on limiting West Bank closures on Palestinian movement usually imposed during the holiday to just the first and last day of Sukkot, but Barlev told Army Radio that security officials could meet Monday night to discuss extending the cordon.

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, center, and Jerusalem District Police Commander Doron Turgeman, left, visit the scene of the attack at a checkpoint near the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem, October 9, 2022. (Israel Police)

He told Kan that Israel was “doing the maximum to avoid a military campaign in the West Bank,” but noted that the recent flareup may force Israel to take a more decisive action.

“We’re nearing a military operation. We’re not there yet. We need to continue examining the situation and to make decisions accordingly,” Barlev said.

Palestinian gunmen in recent months have targeted military posts, troops operating along the West Bank security barrier, Israeli settlements and civilians on the roads.

In arrest raids across the West Bank early Monday, three wanted Palestinians were arrested, the IDF said.

AFP and AP contributed to this report.

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