Security officials are probing how a Palestinian terrorist managed to flee after stabbing a security guard at the entrance to a West Bank industrial zone, embarking on a stabbing and car-ramming spree that left three people dead and two others beside the guard injured.
The terrorist, 18-year-old Muhammed Souf, stabbed the 36-year-old guard near the entrance to the Ariel Industrial Park, wounding him. According to an initial probe, another security guard stationed in the area did not fire directly at Souf, but rather in the air.
Souf escaped, then killed two people and wounded a third at and adjacent to a nearby gas station. He then drove away in a stolen vehicle, which he proceeded to crash into other cars on Route 5, a major regional highway, killing one. He stabbed another person on the highway, stole another car and crashed again while driving against traffic. He got out and was shot dead by soldiers and armed civilians — some 20 minutes after beginning his rampage.
The second guard was cited by Army Radio as saying he fired into the air because there were several passersby in the area that he feared would be harmed if he shot directly at the terrorist.
“There were a lot of people there, I shot in the air because I was afraid of hurting them. I saw my friend with a stab wound in the neck and the first thing I did was take care of him and stop his bleeding,” the guard said, according to the radio station.
The guard is expected to be questioned by the military over the incident.
Military chief Aviv Kohavi who toured the scene later in the day said the attack “should have ended otherwise.”
“We will investigate and draw lessons,” Kohavi said in a statement published by the IDF.
The three victims were named as Tamir Avihai, Michael Ladygin, and Motti Ashkenazi.
Local officials said the terrorist had worked in the industrial zone, and had a valid permit. Souf did not have any prior security offenses, a defense source told The Times of Israel.
According to Palestinian media reports, Israeli troops entered Souf’s home village of Hares following the attack. The military said troops were dispatched to the scene and were searching the area for a suspect who allegedly aided the terrorist.
The attack came amid an Israeli anti-terror offensive mostly focused on the northern West Bank to deal with a series of Palestinian attacks that have left 26 people in Israel and the West Bank dead since the start of the year.
The operation has netted more than 2,000 arrests in near-nightly raids, but has also left over 130 Palestinians dead, many of them — but not all — while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces.