The owner of a West Bank factory, whose two Israeli employees were slain by a Palestinian worker in Sunday morning’s terror attack, said he hopes the killer was atypical but that his faith in coexistence initiatives had been badly rattled.
Rafi Alon, owner of Alon Group, a producer of waste management systems at the Barkan Industrial Zone near Ariel, said he had always considered workers at his company, which employs many Palestinians, as “a family.”
The businesses in the Barkan Industrial Park, located near Ariel, employ some 8,000 people, approximately half of them Israelis and the other half Palestinians.
Alon said he had always believed that employment and prosperity for Palestinians was the best defense against terrorism.
Alon is set to receive a lifetime achievement award from President Reuven Rivlin next month over his coexistence efforts, Hadashot TV news reported. And the award is to be presented at his Barkan factory.
“Till this day I believed this was the path to peace with the Palestinians. Today my beliefs have all been upset,” he told Hadashot.
In statements Sunday evening, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt both also noted the attack’s detrimental effect on coexistence efforts.
“The Barkan Industrial Zone has been a model of Israeli–Palestinian coexistence since 1982, with thousands working and prospering together. Today a terrorist shattered that harmony by brutally murdering two Israelis at work,” Friedman said.
The Barkan Industrial Zone has been a model of Israeli–Palestinian coexistence since 1982, with thousands working and prospering together. Today a terrorist shattered that harmony by brutally murdering two Israelis at work. Our deepest condolences to the families of the victims.
— David M. Friedman (@USAmbIsrael) October 7, 2018
Greenblatt, too, said Barkan had been “a beacon for coexistence and a model for the future.” He called for universal condemnation of the “reprehensible” attack.
The Barkan industrial center is a beacon for coexistence and a model for the future. Today's terror attack is reprehensible and should be universally condemned. Join me in praying for the wounded and sending comfort to the families of the victims.
— Jason D. Greenblatt (@jdgreenblatt45) October 7, 2018
Alon said terrorist Ashraf Na’alowa had been a relatively new employee.
“He’d been working for about four months,” he said. “The terrorist did not show up for work over the past two weeks and claimed he had problems at home.”
On Sunday morning, “we gave him a task to fix an electrical problem at the administrative offices. It was very early and there were only a few people here,” he said.
On Sunday morning, Na’alowa entered the offices of the Alon Group. Inside, he shot and killed Kim Levengrond Yehezkel, 28, whom he had tied up, and Ziv Hajbi, 35. He also moderately injured a second female victim, whom he shot in the stomach.
Na’alowa fled the scene of the attack, prompting a large-scale manhunt, in which IDF troops have set up road closures and checkpoints throughout the area.
Alon called Na’alowa’s attack “wicked and cruel.”
Of Levengrond Yehezkel, he said: “She was like a daughter to me. To come in and kill such a young woman is a calamity. There’s nothing worse.”
“This is a very difficult incident. Until now, there have not been any security incidents here. For decades, industrial zones have served as a bridge of coexistence,” Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan said earlier on Sunday.
Shai Amichai, the director general of the industrial zone, also described the location as a model example of Israelis and Palestinians working side-by-side.
“Both in the industrial area and in the community itself, the cooperation is fruitful,” he told the Ynet news site. “We are in a relationship of neighborliness and professional relations at the highest level. The residents feel secure in their workplace, and many forge connections outside of their place of work.
“I do not know the security procedures of the zone,” added Amichai. “But there was no decrease in the number of security forces in the region, neither overt nor undercover.”
The mayor of the nearby city of Ariel, Eli Shviro, told the Walla news site that “the industrial zones in which Jews and Palestinians work together are the path to coexistence in our region.”
In 2015, a Palestinian stabbed and injured two security guards at the same industrial park. Guards at the site shot and killed the attacker during that incident.
Hadashot reported Sunday that Na’alowa had left a suicide letter with a friend three days ago. The friend, who also worked at Alon Group, did not report the letter to the authorities. He has been arrested and Israeli security forces were investigating whether advance knowledge of the letter could have prevented the attack, the network reported.
On Sunday evening, the army said members of Na’alowa’s family had been arrested and were being interrogated by the Shin Bet security service to determine whether they had assisted him in the attack or in his escape from the scene.
“IDF troops went to the terrorist’s home in the village of Shuweika” outside Tulkarem, “measured his home [ahead of eventual demolition] and conducted interrogations and arrests of people suspected of assisting the terrorist,” the army said.
Na’alowa’s Carlo submachine gun reportedly jammed during his attack, preventing him from firing additional shots. That type of locally produced firearm, which is known to be highly inaccurate and prone to malfunctions, has been tied to a number of terror attacks in recent years, owing to its low price and wide availability in the West Bank.
Security camera video from the scene appeared to show Na’alowa fleeing after the attack, with the Carlo submachine gun in hand.
Levengrond Yehezkel will be buried in her hometown of Rosh Ha’ayin in central Israel at 10 p.m. on Sunday. Hajbi’s funeral will be held at 2 p.m. Monday, in the southern community of Nir Yisrael.
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.