Two Israeli men, a father and son, were shot and killed in a terror attack in the northern West Bank town of Huwara on Saturday, the military and medics said.
The shooting occurred inside a carwash in the Palestinian town, located south of Nablus.
The Magen David Adom ambulance service said its medics carried out resuscitation efforts on the pair after they were hit by gunfire. They were both declared dead at the scene shortly afterward.
The victims were later identified as Shay Silas Nigreker, 60, and his 28-year-old son Aviad Nir, residents of Ashdod.
The Israel Defense Forces said it had launched a manhunt for the assailant and closed off a number of roads in the area.
The terrorist approached the carwash on foot and opened fire at the two Israelis from close range with a handgun, according to the IDF’s preliminary investigation. The terrorist then fled the scene, apparently on foot.
The two men, who were not residents of the area, were believed by the army to have been in Huwara for a number of hours on Saturday before the attack, carrying out various personal errands. Some goods and services are cheaper in the West Bank than in Israel, drawing some customers across the border. The attack occurred as the pair were standing by their car while it was being washed.
Warning: Graphic footage.
تغطية صحفية: "لحظة تنفيذ عــــمـــلـــية حوارة". pic.twitter.com/Vd3q5ExTSi
— شبكة قدس الإخبارية (@qudsn) August 19, 2023
A shuttle bus driver from Ashdod said he met the victims at a store that fixed air conditioners minutes before the shooting.
The driver, Avi Elharrar, told Channel 12 there hadn’t been many Israeli vehicles in the area.
“I was there with them and talked with them,” the driver said. “They asked if I was also from Ashdod and we got to talking. We talked a little bit then the father said, ‘I’m going to the carwash outside.’ He went out for a carwash. When we heard gunshots, we hit the gas and got away.”
“There were gunshots and we immediately got out of there,” he said. “I gave their friend a lift. I’m never going back there. It’s frightening.”
The Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups praised the attack, calling it “heroic” and “a natural response to the crimes of the occupation.”
Top commanders including the head of the IDF Central Command Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox, the head of the IDF’s West Bank division Brig. Gen. Avi Blot and the chief of the Samaria Regional Brigade Col. Shimon Siso toured the scene of the attack. IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi arrived later and was briefed on the shooting.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant later held an assessment with IDF chief Halevi, the deputy head of the Shin Bet security agency, and the head of the IDF Operations Directorate, Maj. Gen. Oded Basiuk.
“Gallant instructed the IDF and Shin Bet to amplify efforts to secure roads and communities [in the West Bank], and to take all the measures required to thwart the terrorist,” his office said.
مصادر عبرية: في تفاصيل جديدة لعملية حوارة.. منفذ العملية بعدما تأكد من هويتهم أنهم مستوطنين أطلق النار عليهم وأنسحب ثم عاد وأطلق النار عليهم من جديد وأنسحب.#ترجمة_نيو_برس
— Newpress | نيو برس (@NewpressPs) August 19, 2023
On Saturday evening Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered his condolences to the family of the victims “whose lives were cut short in such a cruel and criminal way over Shabbat.”
“Security forces are working diligently in order to find the murderer and bring him to account,” he said in a statement.
President Isaac Herzog lamented “a sad Saturday that ended with great pain,” while adding that “We mustn’t allow terror to win.”
Huwara has long been a flashpoint in the West Bank, thanks to a main thoroughfare running through the town also being used regularly by Israelis to travel to and from settlements. There are plans to build a bypass road for settlers to avoid having to travel through the town, but work on this has dragged on for years.
The IDF generally does not maintain as significant of a presence in Huwara on Saturdays, as the vast majority of settlers in the area are observant Jews and do not drive on the Sabbath. Troops are usually bolstered on Saturday night when Israelis travel to and from the settlements in the area.
There have also been a handful of instances of settler violence targeting the Palestinian residents of Huwara, including a deadly rampage that unfolded hours after the February attack in which the two Israeli brothers were shot dead.
The military on Saturday was preparing to prevent Israeli settlers from potentially carrying out revenge attacks, bolstering the Huwara area with the Givati Brigade’s reconnaissance battalion and a number of Border Police teams.
Earlier this year settlers rampaged in Huwara after a deadly attack there, setting fire to Palestinian homes and cars. One Palestinian man was shot dead under unclear circumstances during the riots. Military officials later said they had failed in not subduing that attack on Palestinians, which elicited shock and condemnations inside Israel and around the world.
Violence has surged across the West Bank over the past year and a half, with a rise in Palestinian shooting attacks against Israeli civilians and troops, near-nightly arrest raids by the military, and an uptick in attacks by extremist Jewish settlers against Palestinians.
Palestinian terror attacks in Israel and the West Bank have left 28 people dead and several others seriously wounded since the beginning of the year, including Saturday’s shooting.
According to a tally by The Times of Israel, 173 West Bank Palestinians have also been killed during the same period — most of them during clashes with security forces or while carrying out attacks, but some were uninvolved civilians and others were killed under unclear circumstances, including by armed Israeli settlers.