West Bank terror victim named as Israeli-American Elan Ganeles

Dual citizen, 26, identified as a Connecticut native, IDF veteran who recently graduated from Columbia University; was shot to death near Jericho amid wave of violence

Israeli security forces at the scene of a shooting attack in the Jordan Valley, February 27, 2023. Insert: shooting victim Elan Ganeles. (Erik Marmor/Flash90; courtesy of the family)
Israeli security forces at the scene of a shooting attack in the Jordan Valley, February 27, 2023. Insert: shooting victim Elan Ganeles. (Erik Marmor/Flash90; courtesy of the family)

A man killed in a terror attack near Jericho in the West Bank on Monday has been identified as Israeli-American Elan Ganeles.

Ganeles, 26, was shot to death while driving near the West Bank city of Jericho amid an escalation of violence between Palestinians and Israelis in the territory.

Ganeles was raised in West Hartford, Connecticut, where his family belonged to the Young Israel of West Hartford synagogue and he attended Modern Orthodox schools.

At the Hebrew High School of New England, he was an honors student and volunteered with the local Jewish Family Services, according to an article published about him in 2014.

At the time, he said he was deferring enrollment at the University of Michigan, and enlistment in the US military, to spend a year in Israel.

That time in Israel stretched beyond a year, and he enlisted instead in the Israel Defense Forces, serving as a computer programmer. He then returned to the United States in 2018 to attend Columbia, where he graduated in 2022 with a degree in sustainable development and neuroscience, according to his LinkedIn account.

Ganeles’s funeral will take place in Israel and the family will return to Connecticut to sit shiva, according to an email sent to congregants from Young Israel of West Hartford.

The synagogue said Ganeles was “murdered today in a brutal act of terrorism in Israel” and opened a page for donations to support the family.

West Bank terror victim Elan Ganeles. (Courtesy of the family)

The synagogue will be offering the services of grief counselors to the community.

US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides confirmed the fatality was a US citizen earlier on Monday, saying, “I pray for his family.”

During the attack, multiple gunmen arrived by car on the Route 90 highway, close to the Nevo military base, and opened fire at an Israeli-owned vehicle, according to the IDF.

The terrorists then continued driving and opened fire at another car near the Beit Ha’arava Junction, before continuing and shooting at a third car nearby, the IDF said.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service said medics were called to the scene after receiving reports of a car crash. When first responders arrived they found Ganeles in critical condition from gunshot wounds.

The first responders took Ganeles to the Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus in Jerusalem, where he was later declared dead.

The motorists in the second Israeli-owned car that came under gunfire in the area continued driving until reaching the nearby Almog Junction and reported the incident to authorities. The Rescuers Without Borders emergency service said none of the passengers was hurt.

The service said no Israelis were hurt in the third car that came under fire in the area.

The IDF and police said the gunmen set fire to their car as they fled the area toward Jericho. The IDF said it was conducting searches and setting up roadblocks in the area.

In a separate attack on Monday night, an Israeli family came under fire while driving near the Palestinian town of Qusra, the military and medics said.

Israeli security forces at the scene of a shooting attack at the Bet Ha’Arava Junction, near Jericho in the West Bank, February 27, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)

According to Rescuers Without Borders and the IDF, the car driving between Qusra and the settlement of Migdalim was hit with at least four bullets.

The gunmen, who fired from a passing vehicle, fled the scene.

The service said the driver, a young woman, was very lightly hurt after being scratched in the hand, apparently by glass shrapnel. Her three young children in the car were receiving psychological treatment.

The IDF said it had launched a manhunt for the attackers.

Ganeles was killed a day after two Israeli brothers were shot to death in a similar attack in the West Bank, setting off a rampage by settlers in a Palestinian village.

On Sunday,  Hallel Yaniv, 21, and Yagel Yaniv, 19, were killed as they drove through the West Bank Palestinian town of Huwara.

An initial probe of the Sunday shooting suggested the gunman took advantage of a traffic jam on the Route 60 highway that traverses through the Palestinian town to carry out the attack while the car was stopped.

The IDF was searching for the gunman, who has not yet been apprehended.

The parents and siblings of Hallel, 21, and Yagel Yaniv, 19, mourn during their funeral at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem, February 27, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

After the attack, settlers carried out a violent riot in Huwara in revenge. A Palestinian man was killed by gunfire during the riot and Palestinian media said some 30 homes and cars were torched.

A military source said Israeli troops were not involved in the shooting that killed 37-year-old Sameh Aqtash, though his family accused the IDF of shooting him.

The military has bolstered the West Bank with an additional four infantry battalions following the attack and subsequent rioting in Huwara.

In recent months, Palestinian gunmen have repeatedly targeted military posts and troops operating along the West Bank security barrier, Israeli settlements and civilians on the roads.

Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians have been high for the past year, with the IDF conducting near-nightly raids in the West Bank amid a series of deadly Palestinian terror attacks.

However, the nightly raids have been on pause since Wednesday, ahead of and following a Jordan-hosted meeting between Israeli and Palestinian officials on Sunday whose goal was to restore calm to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.

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