Netanyahu, Rivlin condemn West Bank terror shootings, vow to apprehend attacker
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Netanyahu, Rivlin condemn West Bank terror shootings, vow to apprehend attacker

Culture minister accuses Blue and White of teaming up with Arab Israeli MK who wouldn’t condemn such attacks; Gantz slams her for politicizing tragedy

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

An Israeli man injured in a shooting attack in the northern West Bank is brought to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva on March 17, 2019. (Flash90)
An Israeli man injured in a shooting attack in the northern West Bank is brought to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva on March 17, 2019. (Flash90)

Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin, condemned the terror attack that took place Sunday morning at a pair of junctions in the northern West Bank in which one Israeli was killed and two were injured.

“We are in the midst of pursuing the terrorists in two locations in the Ariel area,” Netanyahu said at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting. “I affirm my support for the IDF soldiers, the Shin Bet and the security forces chasing the terrorists. I’m sure they will catch them… as we did in every previous case.”

The IDF said it was not immediately clear whether the shooter had acted alone.

“My thoughts are with the families who are right now coming to terms with the terrible news from the horrific terrorist attack, and with the security forces who are right now in pursuit of the terrorists. The State of Israel will seek out, find and defeat all those who attack us,” Rivlin tweeted.

Several lawmakers used the attack as a platform for political statements over how to best handle Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians.

IDF soldiers near the scene of a shooting attack near the northern West Bank Ariel Junction on March 17, 2019. (IDF)

Culture Minister Miri Regev said the attacks “were a direct result of the rampant incitement on the part of Ahmad Tibi, who on Friday demonstrated that he was not prepared to condemn the murder of an innocent child in her bed and encouraged martyrs simultaneously.”

The Likud minister was referring to a Friday Channel 13 panel that she participated in along with Tibi, a lawmaker for Hadash-Ta’al. During a shouting match with Tibi, she repeatedly pressed him to condemn the 2016 murder of 13-year-old Hallel Yaffa Ariel, who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist in her bedroom in the Kiryat Arba settlement. While Tibi in the past has condemned violence against all civilians, he refused to comment on the murder of Ariel and instead called on Regev to condemn Israeli airstrikes targeting Palestinian homes in Gaza.

“With this man, Lapid and Gantz want to establish a bloc [preventing the formation of a right wing government]. This must not be allowed to happen!” Regev said at the conclusion of her statement condemning Sunday’s attack.

A central part of the Likud campaign against the Blue and White has been the charge that leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid will be unable to build a ruling coalition without the backing of Arab parties such as Hadash-Ta’al. Arab parties have never served in an Israeli coalition government, but have supported minority governments from the outside.

IDF soldiers near the scene of a shooting attack near the northern West Bank Ariel Junction on March 17, 2019. (IDF)

Blue and White has been quick to reject the allegation, saying it will not rely on anti-Zionist lawmakers in the Knesset to stabilize a future government.

Responding to Regev’s comments on Sunday, Gantz released a scathing statement of his own. “Never in the history of the state has a minister in Israel used the death of those killed in terror attacks for political propaganda before the funerals of the dead. Out of respect for the victims, we will not respond further at this point in time.”

Union of Right Wing Parties No. 2 Bezalel Smotrich said the northern West Bank shootings were “a product of the Arab hope to defeat us through terror. Only the reduction of Arab hope for the establishment of a terrorist state in the heart of our homeland will eradicate this terror.”

The hardline lawmaker called for the annexation of the West Bank and for a million Israelis to move beyond the Green Line “in a manner that would turn settlement into an irreversible process, in addition to a strong, uncompromising” response from the IDF.

Meretz chairwoman Tamar Zandberg offered her condolences to the family of the person killed in the attack and wished the two injured victims a speedy recovery. In addition, the left-wing lawmaker said, “This cycle of bloodshed must be stopped. It will not come from the warmongering that is now coming from the right. It will come from a change of (political) direction.”

IDF soldiers respond to a shooting attack near the Ariel Junction in the northern West Bank on March 17, 2019. (B’Lev Hadashot)

Sunday’s attack began at around 9:45 a.m. near Ariel Junction, where the terrorist assaulted a soldier with a knife and managed to gain control of his weapon, IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said.

The attacker then fired at passing vehicles, hitting a civilian in the first vehicle. A second vehicle was hit, but managed to flee the scene. A third car stopped, and the attacker, whom Conricus said “appears to be a Palestinian,” took it and fled the scene.

Conricus said that the suspect then continued to the nearby Gitai Junction, where he fired at a soldier standing at a hitchhiking post, injuring him. He then drove to the nearby Palestinian village of Bruqin, where Israeli security forces are currently in pursuit of him.

Additional forces have been deployed to the scene in a manhunt that is being coordinated with the Shin Bet security service and the Israel Police, Conricus said. He added that it was not immediately clear whether the suspect was affiliated with any terror groups or was acting alone.

The two injured men, one 19 and one 47, were taken to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, the Magen David Adom Emergency service said. The younger victim sustained abdominal and spinal injuries and was being prepped for surgery. The older victim’s condition deteriorated to critical by the time he arrived at the hospital with head injuries and doctors were fighting to keep him alive.

IDF soldiers near the scene of a shooting attack near the northern West Bank Ariel Junction on March 17, 2019. (IDF)

Medics attempted to resuscitate the third victim, but were forced to declare him dead at the Ariel Junction.

As a precaution, the army had briefly ordered the closing of the nearby Barkan industrial zone as well as the surrounding northern West Bank settlements. The Palestinian villages of Jamma’in, Kifl Haris and Deir Istiya near Nablus were also sealed, the IDF said.

Palestinian media reported heavy gunfire in the village of Bruqin.

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