Palestinian suspect in terror shooting said to have left suicide note

Friend who received the letter has reportedly been arrested as security forces investigate whether deadly Barkan attack could have been prevented

Israeli security forces at the scene of a fatal shooting attack in Barkan Industrial Park in the northern West Bank on October 7, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
Israeli security forces at the scene of a fatal shooting attack in Barkan Industrial Park in the northern West Bank on October 7, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

The suspected Palestinian terrorist in Sunday’s deadly shooting attack at a West Bank industrial park left a suicide letter with a friend three days ago, according to a television report.

According to Hadashot television, the friend, who worked at the same factory in the Barkan Industrial Zone, did not report the letter to the authorities. He has been arrested and Israeli security forces are investigating whether advance knowledge of the letter could have prevented the attack, the network reported.

The Israel Defense Forces on Sunday declared the fatal shooting in the northern West Bank to be a “severe terror attack” and said large numbers of troops, including special forces, were involved in the search for the suspected gunman, who was still believed to be armed.

Shortly before 8 a.m., the suspect, a 23-year-old Palestinian man from the northern West Bank, entered a factory where he was employed in the Barkan Industrial Park, near the Ariel settlement-city, armed with a locally produced Carlo-style submachine gun, according to army spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus.

Israeli security forces gather at the site of a terror attack at the Barkan Industrial Park, near the northern West Bank settlement of Ariel, on October 7, 2018. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

Inside, he tied up and shot dead a woman at close range, according to eyewitnesses, and fatally shot a man. He also shot a second woman, 54, in the stomach. She was moderately wounded and taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.

The woman who was killed in the attack was identified as Kim Levengrond Yehezkel, 29, from Rosh Ha’ayin, and the man was named as Ziv Hajbi, 35, from Rishon Lezion.

Kim Levengrond Yehezkel, 29 (left), and Ziv Hajbi, 35, who were killed in a terror shooting in the Barkan industrial zone in the West Bank, October 7, 2018 (screenshots: Facebook)

After the attack, the suspect fled the scene of the attack, still armed with the submachine gun, the military said.

The IDF would not release the suspect’s name, but said he was from the northern West Bank village of Shuweika, near Tulkarem.

According to the IDF, the suspect had no history of terrorist activities and was not tied to any terror groups, though several of the organizations on Sunday applauded the killings.

Earlier in the day, he had posted on his Facebook page that he was “waiting for [Allah].”

The suspect worked at the Alon Group factory — which manufactures waste management systems — where he committed the attack, and had a legal work permit. He was acquainted with his victims, according to Conricus.

Israeli security forces at the scene of a shooting attack in the Barkan Industrial Park in the West Bank on October 7, 2018 (Flash90)

He had been absent from work in the days before the shooting, but was still employed by the factory, according to the spokesperson, who refuted earlier media reports that he had been fired.

The suspect’s Carlo submachine gun reportedly jammed during his attack, preventing him from firing additional shots. That type of locally produced firearm, which is known to be highly inaccurate and prone to malfunctions, has been tied to a number of terror attacks in recent years, owing to its low price and wide availability in the West Bank.

“He has not yet been apprehended. We know that he is still armed and is considered dangerous,” Conricus said. “We do not know if he plans to carry out another terror attack or if he is just fleeing, but we assume he is still dangerous.”

The IDF, Shin Bet security service and Israel Police, including special forces units, launched a manhunt for the gunman, and deployed additional troops throughout the West Bank in order to prevent “copycat” incidents — a common phenomenon after high-profile terror attacks.

“We know that there were other factors involved, that it wasn’t a pure-and-simple terror attack,” Conricus said, referring to speculation that the attack was the action of a disgruntled worker.

“But we know from various sources, which we cannot share today but may in the future, that this was a terror attack,” he said.

Palestinian media reported road closures and checkpoints throughout the northern West Bank as security forces searched for the suspect.

Security camera video from the scene appeared to show him fleeing after the attack, with the Carlo submachine gun in hand.

The businesses in the Barkan Industrial Park, located near Ariel, employ some 8,000 people, approximately half of them Israelis and the other half Palestinians.

“This is a very difficult incident. Until now there have not been any security incidents here. For decades, industrial zones have served as a bridge of coexistence,” Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan said.

Shai Amichai, the director general of the industrial zone, also described the location as a good example of Israelis and Palestinians working side by side.

“Both in the industrial area and in the community itself, the cooperation is fruitful,” he told the Ynet news site. “We are in a relationship of neighborliness and professional relations at the highest level. The residents feel secure in their workplace, and many forge connections outside of their place of work.

Israeli security forces at the scene of a shooting attack in Barkan industrial zone in the West Bank on October 7, 2018 (Flash90)

“I do not know the security procedures of the zone,” added Amichai. “But there was no decrease in the number of security forces in the region, neither overt nor undercover.”

The mayor of the nearby city of Ariel, Eli Shviro, told the Walla news site that “the industrial zones in which Jews and Palestinians work together are the path to coexistence in our region.”

In 2015, a Palestinian stabbed and injured two security guards at the same industrial park. Guards at the site shot and killed the attacker during that incident.

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