Leaders vow to catch attacker who killed soldier amid large manhunt

Leaders vow to catch attacker who killed soldier amid large manhunt

Defense minister says 'security forces will not rest until they lay hands on terrorist' who murdered 19-year-old Ron Yitzhak Kokia in Arad

Illustrative: Police in southern Israel. December 1, 2017. (Israel Police)
Illustrative: Police in southern Israel. December 1, 2017. (Israel Police)

Israel’s leaders vowed that the attacker who killed an IDF soldier at a bus station in the southern city of Arad on Thursday night would be caught, as police continued a large-scale manhunt for the assailant Friday morning.

Nahal Brigade Sergeant Ron Yitzhak Kokia, 19, was stabbed to death Thursday night in an apparent terror attack while waiting for a bus near a shopping mall.

Ron Yitzhak Kokia, an IDF soldier who was stabbed to death in an apparent terror attack on November 30, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)

Police said forces in large numbers were carrying out searches overnight and into Friday morning in the Arad area to locate the assailant or assailants, publishing pictures of searches in agricultural fields and animal sheds.

They also said extra police had been deployed in Arad following the attack.

“This morning police were deployed at key locations and classrooms through the city to ensure that normal life continues,” a statement from the police read.

Police earlier said officers were searching the area for two assailants who fled the scene and set up roadblocks and “heightened security measures” in the area. Helicopters were also taking part in the search.

Israel Police officers meet with Arad city officials during a manhunt for suspected terrorists who allegedly killed an Israeli soldier, on December 1, 2017. (Israel Police)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said security forces were working to capture the attackers.

“They will be brought to justice and we will continue to fight terror with all our strength,” he wrote on Facebook, offering condolences to Kokia’s family.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman also tweeted Friday morning that “security forces will not rest until they lay their hands on the terrorist who murdered Kokia.”

Police say the fact that the victim was a soldier, together with eyewitness testimony, has led them to suspect that the stabbing was a terror attack.

“Following an initial investigation by police forces at the scene it appears that the motivation for the stabbing … was nationalistic,” police said in a statement Thursday night.

President Reuven Rivlin said the attack would not go unpunished in a Friday morning statement.

“Terror will not be allowed to raise its head and we will fight it with strength and determination without rest,” he posted on Facebook. “I send a comforting embrace to the bereaved family and support to the security forces in their pursuit after the terrorists and their collaborators.”

Kokia, from Tel Aviv, served in the Nahal Brigade, an infantry unit whose home base is located just outside Arad.

The soldier was waiting for a ride near a mall in the southern city at about 9:30 p.m. when he was attacked.

When medics arrived at the scene, they found him in critical condition, unconscious and without a pulse, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service.

A helicopter was ordered to rush him to hospital. Medics performed CPR in the ambulance but were forced to pronounce him dead before they reached the helicopter, one of the medics said.

The army said Kokia’s funeral would be held on Sunday afternoon in Tel Aviv’s Kiryat Shaul cemetery.

His family donated his organs for transplants, Army Radio reported.

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