Soldier injured in West Bank attack no longer in mortal danger

Soldier injured in West Bank attack no longer in mortal danger

Hospital says another casualty remains in ‘moderate condition’ after deadly car ramming near Mevo Dotan

Israeli security forces and forensics experts at the site of a car-ramming attack on Israeli soldiers near the West Bank settlement of Mevo Dotan on March 16, 2018. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)
Israeli security forces and forensics experts at the site of a car-ramming attack on Israeli soldiers near the West Bank settlement of Mevo Dotan on March 16, 2018. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

The condition of one of two Israeli soldiers hospitalized following a deadly West Bank car-ramming attack has improved and he is no longer in life-threatening danger, a hospital spokesperson said on Sunday.

The soldier, whose name has not been cleared for release, had been fighting for his life since the Friday afternoon attack in the northern West Bank, in which a Palestinian driver ran his car into a group of troops.

Two soldiers were killed in the attack, identified Saturday night as Cpt. Ziv Daos and Sgt. Netanel Kahalani.

Two other soldiers were injured, and remain hospitalized at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva.

“The man who was very seriously injured is no longer in immediate mortal danger,” a statement from a Beilinson spokesperson said.

The condition of a second man who was moderately injured in the attack hasn’t changed, the statement added.

Kahalani, 20, from Elyakim in northern Israel, served as a driver in the Menashe Regional Brigade. He was posthumously promoted to the rank of sergeant.

“Everyone loved him, he helped everyone, always smiling. He never held a grudge against anyone,” his mother said Saturday night, ahead of his funeral at 1 a.m. Sunday morning.

Daos, 21, from the central town of Azor, was a platoon commander in a Home Front Command search and rescue unit. He was posthumously promoted to the rank of captain.

His funeral is scheduled for noon Sunday

Sgt. Netanel Kahalani, left, and Cpt. Ziv Daos, right, are identified as the soldiers killed in an apparent car-ramming terror attack on March 16, 2018. (Courtesy)

Ala Qabha, 26, is accused of ramming his car into the group of soldiers outside a military post in the northern West Bank, near the Mevo Dotan settlement in what the army has designated a terror attack.

On Saturday, the Shin Bet security agency said Qabha confessed to carrying out the attack. It said Qabha initially claimed the incident was an accident, but later changed his story, and said it was deliberate and that he intended to murder soldiers.

The security agency said that it appeared that he acted alone, and possibly spontaneously.

Qabha did a U-turn on the road before plowing into the soldiers, and accelerated into them, Israeli TV reports said Saturday.

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.”

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 exited 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.”

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.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has vowed to pursue the death penalty for Qabha and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered his home be demolished as a punitive response.

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.

The elder Qabha also told Walla the family rejected Hamas’s praise for the attack.

Car-ramming terror suspect Ala Qabha (Courtesy)

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 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.”

Qabha was injured and hospitalized for treatment.

The scene of a car-ramming attack in the West Bank on March 16, 2018. (Magen David Adom)

The Palestinian terrorist group Hamas had 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.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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