Soldier wounded in West Bank terror shooting continues to fight for his life

Serviceman undergoes emergency surgery for serious gunshot wound to head; condition of civilian injured in the shooting improves, along with victims of other attacks

Israeli soldiers, medical officials and police inspect the scene of a terrorist shooting attack near Givat Assaf, in the central West Bank, on December 13, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Israeli soldiers, medical officials and police inspect the scene of a terrorist shooting attack near Givat Assaf, in the central West Bank, on December 13, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

An Israeli soldier critically injured in Thursday’s terror shooting in the central West Bank remained in very serious condition on Friday morning, while other Israelis hurt in several attacks this week continued to recover.

The soldier, Netanal Felber, suffered severe gunshot wounds to his head during the attack by a Palestinian gunman at a bus stop near the Givat Assaf settlement outpost.

Two other soldiers were killed in the attack.

“After he underwent complex head surgery last night, he is currently sedated and on a respirator in the intensive care unit, and his life is still in danger,” said a spokesperson for Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem in Jerusalem.

Netanel Felber, in an undated photograph. (courtesy)

Felber’s family moved to Israel from the United States over a decade ago.

The condition of a civilian woman who was also wounded in the terror attack was improving.

The woman, who has been named as Shira Sabag, was seriously injured and had undergone “successful” surgery at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek hospital on Thursday, the medical center said.

Sabag was slated to be transferred Friday from the hospital’s recovery unit to a different ward.

In the attack on Thursday afternoon, a Palestinian terrorist opened fire at the bus stop near Givat Assaf, killing two soldiers who have been identified as Staff Sgt. Yovel Mor Yosef, 20, and Sgt. Yosef Cohen, 19.

A photo composite shows Sgt. Yosef Cohen (L) and Staff. Sgt Yoval Mor Yosef of the Israel Defense Forces’ Kfir Brigade. The two were killed on December 13, 2018, in a terrorist shooting attack outside the Givat Assaf settlement outpost in the central West Bank. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Kan public broadcaster reported that an IDF soldier’s rifle was snatched by the Palestinian gunman during the shooting attack.

The shooting attack took place on Route 60, some two kilometers (1.25 miles) from the settlement of Ofra, where on Sunday a number of terrorists driving a white car opened fire at a group of people standing at a bus stop, hitting seven of them, including a 30-week pregnant woman who was seriously injured and whose baby — delivered in emergency surgery — later died as a result of the attack.

The condition of the 21-year-old bereaved mother, Shira Ish-Ran, as well as that of her husband, Amichai, were continuing to improve.

After her condition steadily improved throughout the week, Shira was recovering further on Friday, a Shaare Zedek spokesperson said. Amichai’s condition was also improving.

Amichai (left) and Shira Ish-Ran, wounded in a December 9, 2018, terrorist attack outside Ofra in the West Bank, are seen at their wedding (Courtesy of the family)

A senior Israel Defense Forces commander has indicated that the same Hamas terror cell carried out the two drive-by shooting attacks, which occurred along the same highway and days apart.

IDF Central Command chief Maj. Gen. Nadav Padan vowed that the IDF would hunt down the terrorists, some of whom remain on the run.

“In the past few days a Hamas terror group cell managed to harm us and exact from us a heavy price,” Padan said. “We will pursue them and settle the score with this cell.”

“There will no hiding place for the attackers in all of Judea and Samaria,” Padan said, using the biblical names for the West Bank. “The IDF will continue to hunt them. Following the attack we are increasing forces, protecting the roads and settlements, and expanding efforts to thwart terror.”

A Border Police officer wounded in Thursday morning’s stabbing attack in Jerusalem’s Old City was also still hospitalized at Hadassah Ein Kerem. She suffered injury to her legs and was still receiving treatment on Friday.

In the pre-dawn attack, a Palestinian man stabbed two border guards near Damascus Gate, lightly injuring them, before he was shot dead by the officers.

Late Wednesday night, Israeli security forces conducted a series of raids in the Ramallah area to find the terrorists responsible for Sunday’s shooting. At least four suspects were arrested and one, Salih Omar Barghouti, 29, was shot dead after troops said he tried to attack them while attempting to escape in the village of Kobar, outside Ramallah. Hamas later claimed Barghouti as a member.

A poster published by Hamas claiming the December 9, 2108, Ofra terror attack and praising the ‘martyr’ Salih Barghouti, posted on Hamas’s official Twitter account, December 12, 2108. (Twitter)

But the military on Thursday afternoon acknowledged that it may not yet have arrested all of the suspects in the  drive-by shooting attack outside the Ofra settlement.

“We’re still in the midst of a manhunt,” a senior officer in the IDF Central Command said on Thursday morning, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity.

The past week has seen a significant escalation in the level of violence in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Hours after the Givat Assaf shooting attack, the army said a Palestinian man attempted to ram his car into a group of soldiers who were taking part in the effort to find the gunman outside the town of el-Bireh, adjacent to Ramallah. The troops opened fire, killing the man, later identified by Palestinian officials as Hamdan al-Arda. One soldier was lightly injured. The Palestinian man’s family denied the army’s claims, saying it was not an attack, but rather a traffic accident. Arda, a 56-year-old aluminum factory owner, was hard of hearing, his relatives told the Haaretz daily.

Ashraf Walid Suleiman Na’alowa, a Palestinian man suspected of carrying out a deadly terror attack on October 7, 2018 in the Barkan Industrial Zone in the northern West Bank. (Courtesy)

Separately, Israeli troops located a terrorist who killed two Israelis in October at the Barkan industrial zone after a two-month manhunt. The suspect was killed in a shootout with troops overnight Wednesday-Thursday.

There has been an increase in the number of attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers in recent weeks, after months of relative calm in the area, raising concerns of a potential renewed outbreak of regular, serious violence in the region.

The military blamed the increase in attacks both on terror groups’ ongoing efforts, the “copycat” phenomenon and a number of significant dates coming up this week, notably the anniversary of Hamas’s founding.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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