Two weeks after security forces tracked down and killed a terrorist who in October murdered two of his coworkers at a West Bank industrial zone, the families of the victims met with the elite police counter-terrorism fighters who killed the Palestinian gunman in a firefight.
In a meeting this week between the troops — whose identity can’t be published — and the families of Kim Levengrond Yehezkel and Ziv Hajbi, Border Police commander Yaakov Shabtai said the entire security establishment had dedicated itself to locating Ashraf Na’alowa and arresting his accomplices during the two-month manhunt.
“We had no doubt we would get him, and indeed we did,” Shabtai said, according to a Border Police statement.
On October 7, Na’alowa, 23, killed his coworkers Levengrond Yehezkel and Hajbi at a factory where all three worked in the Barkan Industrial Zone in the West Bank. Another Israeli woman was injured in the attack.
Levengrond Yehezkel was a secretary and Hajbi worked in accounting at the Alon Group’s factory in the Barkan industrial park. Na’alowa was employed there as an electrician.
Israeli forces found Na’alowa and killed him earlier this month. According to the IDF, he opened fire at the officers who came to arrest him, and the troops shot back, killing him.
Shabtai said Na’alowa had been found by a police dog that indicated to the officers that he was hiding in a building at a Nablus refugee camp.
“He shot and wounded the dog, and we managed to neutralize him,” Shabtai recounted.
“You have become our children, our family,” Levengrond Yehezkel’s mother, Chava, told the officers. “Like it or not, we have formed a connection and a relationship that will endure for the rest of our lives. I am deeply moved and thank you for what you have done.”
Na’alowa had eluded capture for over two months, and was helped along the way by individuals believed linked to Hamas cells operating in the West Bank. A number of his relatives and alleged accomplices were arrested and indicted as part of the manhunt.
“It was clear to us that he wouldn’t elude the defense establishment,” said Levengrond Yehezkel’s father, Rafi. “We knew that he would eventually be found and could feel some degree of comfort that he isn’t walking free.”
Tal, Hajbi’s brother, praised the officers and said, “Your work isn’t taken for granted. We are happy for the meeting and thank you for your sacrifice. You operate while risking your life on a daily basis, and we wanted to look you in the eye and say thank you.”
Last week, Israeli forces partially demolished the terrorist’s home near Tulkarem. The structure itself was left intact while a part of its interior was destroyed by bulldozers. Parts of the building belong to family members who were determined by Israeli security services to have played no role in the terror attack.
Iris Hajbi, Ziv’s mother, complained at the time about what she called the limited demolition in Na’alowa’s family’s apartment building.
“I’m angry that they’re not destroying the entire home,” Hajbi said in a radio interview. “They told me they would also destroy the homes of accomplices. What’s the sense in demolishing the entire home of the accomplice, but leaving the murderer’s home half intact?”
Levengrond Yehezkel’s father, Rafi, also complained after the demolition that “nothing was destroyed. It’s like they touched up the plaster.”
Times of Israel staff and AP contributed to this report.