The Shin Bet security agency said Saturday that the Palestinian man who allegedly killed two IDF soldiers and seriously wounded two others in a West Bank car-ramming confessed to carrying out the attack.
The security agency said that it appeared that 26-year-old Ala Qabha acted alone, and possibly spontaneously, when he drove his vehicle into a group of soldiers standing guard near the settlement of Mevo Dotan in the northern West Bank on Friday afternoon. The army on Friday designated the car-ramming as a terror attack.
Qabha did a U-turn on the road before plowing into the soldiers, and accelerated into them, Israeli TV reports said Saturday, leaving no doubt that the attack was deliberate.
Qabha’s family insisted the deadly incident was an accident. His father told the Walla news site Saturday that his son is not affiliated with any terrorist group, and did not intentionally target Israeli troops. “This isn’t the first car accident like this and won’t be the last,” Rateb Qabha said. “You hear about accidents like these every day in the news.”
Earlier Saturday, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot confirmed that Israeli forces arrested Qabha’s brother and an uncle in the family’s hometown of Barta’a, outside Jenin. Both relatives were suspected of helping him carry out the deadly attack.
Forces also mapped out Qabha’s home in preparation for its demolition, conducted a broader search of the village for illegal weapons, and continued security checks of cars in the roads surrounding Barta’a.
“I know my son well,” his father said. “This is a young man who works, he dreams of getting married and having a family. He doesn’t have [terrorist] leanings… I extend my condolences to the families of the victims,” Qabha added.
Qabha also told Walla the family rejected Hamas’s praise for the attack.
Asked about reports in Hebrew-language media that his son was known to Israeli intelligence services, and had recently been released from prison, Qabha downplayed the allegations saying that Ala had gotten in to trouble once “for stone throwing or something like that.”
An unnamed family representative added that Ala had “made a mistake” in the past, but that it should not be held against him now.
“It doesn’t mean that he should be labeled a terrorist or a criminal,” the representative told Walla. “The Shin Bet [security service] knows with 100% certainty that he is not a criminal who endangers the state of Israel.”
He added that the Qabhas were confident that after an investigation “it will become clear that this was an accident and nothing more.”
According to the IDF, Qabha on Friday afternoon intentionally ran over soldiers on duty securing routes near the settlement of Mevo Dotan, close to the Palestinian city of Jenin.
An officer was killed along with a soldier while another two soldiers were seriously hurt, the army said. The Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva said that both soldiers remained in serious condition on Saturday.
Qabha was injured and hospitalized for treatment.
Media showed footage of a smashed and mangled white car. Channel 10 news said the Palestinian plowed the vehicle into the group of soldiers as they dismounted from a jeep and walked toward a guard post.
Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, who heads COGAT, the Israeli liaison for Palestinian civilian affairs in the West Bank, ordered in response to the attack “an immediate and broad suspension” of permits for employment in Israel “for the entire family of the assailant.”
The Palestinian terrorist group Hamas welcomed the attack, saying it “proves our people’s readiness to continue the Jerusalem intifada,” and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group also also said it “commended” the attack and urged “further attacks against the Zionist occupation.”
Neither group took responsibility for the attack.