Two Palestinians get 4 life sentences each for deadly 2022 terror attack in Elad

As’ad Yousef As’ad al-Rifa’i, 20, and Subhi Emad Sbeihat, 21, confessed to attempted murder in ax and knife assault that killed 4, seriously injured several others

Subhi Emad Subhi Abu Shqeir (L) and As’ad Yousef As’ad al-Rifa’i, named as main suspects in the Elad terror attack on May 5, 2022. (Israel Police)
Subhi Emad Subhi Abu Shqeir (L) and As’ad Yousef As’ad al-Rifa’i, named as main suspects in the Elad terror attack on May 5, 2022. (Israel Police)

The Central District Court on Tuesday convicted two Palestinians of carrying out a deadly terror attack in the city of Elad last year and sentenced them to life in prison.

As’ad Yousef As’ad al-Rifa’i, 20, and Subhi Emad Sbeihat, 21, confessed to the attack. They were each handed four life sentences for murder and attempted murder, an additional 20 years for related terror offenses, and also convicted of being in Israel without a permit.

On May 5, 2022, al-Rifa’i and Sbeihat hacked and stabbed three people to death and severely wounded several others, “in some cases in front of their children,” the court found. One of the injured victims died earlier this year, after the pair had already been indicted. The charge sheet was later updated to include the fourth fatality.

Following their arrest, al-Rifa’i confessed to security forces that he committed the axe attack with Sbeihat, killing Oren Ben Yiftah, a 35-year-old driver from Lod, and Elad residents Yonatan Havakuk and Boaz Gol, both in their 40s. The pair attacked civilians on city streets and in a park as Israelis celebrated Independence Day with outdoor festivities. Shimon Maatuf, 75, who was working as a security guard at the celebrations, also encountered the terrorists, with eyewitnesses saying he tried to shoot at them before they seriously injured him. Maatuf died in February.

Court papers show that al-Rifa’i and Sbeihat had entered Israel illegally starting in December 2021 to do electrical work at a synagogue in Elad. In August 2021, Sbeihat decided to carry out a terror attack and die as a “martyr” after one of his friends died during clashes with the IDF. His partner initially rebuffed the proposal.

After another of al-Rifa’i’s acquaintances was killed the men eventually decided to carry out the attack in or around April 2022.

They then armed themselves with axes and knives and entered Israel illegally on May 5, the day of the attack.

The victims of the Elad terror attack on May 5, 2022, from left to right: Boaz Gol, Yonatan Havakuk and Oren Ben Yiftah. (Courtesy)

“Upon arriving in the city of Elad, the accused men murdered the driver who transported them by stabbing him multiple times in the face and neck,” prosecutors said.

Sbeihat asked the driver, Ben Yiftah, about the cost of the trip and took out some money to distract him. Al-Rifa’i then pulled a knife from his bag, grabbed Ben Yiftah’s head to prevent him from moving and “stabbed [him] 21 times in the neck, chest and upper body,” prosecutors said. They threw his body from the car and tried to drive but were unable to start the vehicle, so they proceeded to carry out their rampage on foot.

They found one victim, Gol, on stairs near a park and hacked his neck with their axes, causing him to fall. They then chopped at his head five more times while he was on the ground, killing him.

They spotted their next victim, Havakuk, who was standing with his 6-year-old son. They also struck him in the neck with an ax, sending him to the ground, where they continued to hack at his head, face and neck in front of his son.

They attacked another man in the same manner in front of his four children, and thought they had killed him, but he survived. Another wounded victim was in his mid-70s, and another threw a hot dish of stew at them in self-defense. They caused severe injuries to five people and several of the victims fought them, court papers showed.

The pair was arrested in a forested area about a kilometer from the scene of the attack after a 60-hour manhunt.

Undated photo of Shimon Matuf, who was fatally injured in a terror attack in Elad on May 5, 2022. (Courtesy)

A week after the attack, Israeli troops arrested two other Palestinians who were suspected of aiding the terrorists.

In August 2022, the IDF demolished the homes of al-Rifa’i and Sbeihat in the West Bank town of Rummanah, near Jenin.

The terror spree came amid a string of deadly terror attacks in Israel and the West Bank.

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