Suspected Ariel attacker has no history of involvement in terror, official says
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Suspected Ariel attacker has no history of involvement in terror, official says

Alleged perpetrator confirmed as Omar Abu Laila, from West Bank village of Zawiya; relatives arrested, some released; mayor says nobody has seen him for past day

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

IDF soldiers respond to a shooting attack near the Ariel Junction in the northern West Bank on March 17, 2019. (B'Lev Hadashot)
IDF soldiers respond to a shooting attack near the Ariel Junction in the northern West Bank on March 17, 2019. (B'Lev Hadashot)

A Palestinian teenager suspected of carrying out a stabbing and shooting attack in the northern West Bank on Sunday does not have a record of involvement in terror activity, an Israeli security official said Monday.

Israeli authorities say the terrorist stabbed a soldier and managed to gain control of his weapon on Sunday morning, embarking on a shooting spree and taking aim at passing vehicles. The soldier, 19-year-old Sgt. Gal Keidan, was declared dead at the scene. Rabbi Achiad Ettinger, 47, who the terrorist shot, died Monday.

The security official identified the terror suspect as Omar Abu Laila, 18, from Zawiya, a Palestinian village in the northern West Bank near the Green Line.

After taking another person’s car, driving to a separate junction and shooting a soldier, seriously wounding him, the terrorist fled to Bruqin, a Palestinian village where Israeli security forces were pursuing him, an IDF spokesman said.

Security forces were still searching for the suspect as of Monday afternoon, according to the military.

Zawiya, a Palestinian village in the northern West Bank. (Screenshot: Nahawand)

Early Monday, Israeli security forces raided Zawiya and arrested family members of Abu Laila, whom they interrogated, the security official said, adding that some of them were later released. He declined to define the relationship of those arrested to Abu Laila, though press reports said Abu Laila’s brother and father were among those questioned.

Zawiya Mayor Naim Shakir told The Times of Israel that nobody in the village had seen Abu Laila for the past day.

Little is known about the suspected terrorist, who was a first-year student at Al-Quds Open University and did not appear to have any links to organized Palestinian terror groups.

“He is an ordinary simple boy who comes from a poor family,” Shakir said in a phone call. “I don’t believe he would ever carry out an operation and I think that proof needs to be provided before anyone makes accusations against him or someone else.”

Shakir said Abu Laila’s father works in construction in Israel, and his mother is a homemaker.

In the past four years, a number of Palestinian teenagers with no known prior involvement in terrorist activities have carried out stabbing, shooting and ramming attacks in the West Bank and Jerusalem, in what some security officials have described as a spate of “lone wolf” attacks.

Israeli officials have blamed Palestinian incitement for many of the terror attacks.

A Facebook page belonging to someone with the same name as Abu Laila from the same area did not contain any references to terror groups in the last several years, but a post recently pledged support for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

It could not be confirmed if the page belonged to the suspect.

Members of the Abu Laila family could not be reached for comment.

The Zawiya mayor said family members were declining to speak to all media including Palestinian news outlets.

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