A Palestinian teenager is suspected of carrying out a stabbing and shooting attack in the northern occupied West Bank on Sunday, leading to the death of an Israeli soldier and settler, and renewed tensions across the Palestinian territory.
According to statements from the Israeli military, the Palestinian assailant, alleged to be 19-year old Omar Amin Abu Laila, approached a commercial center in the illegal Ariel settlement around 10 a.m. and stabbed an Israeli man, grabbed his weapon, and began firing at nearby vehicles.
Abu Laila then reportedly got in an abandoned car and drove to a nearby bus stop frequented by settlers and soldiers and opened fire before fleeing towards the nearby village of Bruqin.
An Israeli soldier identified as 19-year-old Gal Keidan was declared dead on Sunday, and Rabbi Ahiad Ettinger from the nearby illegal Eli settlement succumbed to his wounds on Monday. A third Israeli is still reported to be in hospital in critical condition.
The manhunt for Abu Laila continued into Monday, with Israeli forces maintaining widespread road and checkpoint closures across the central and northern West Bank.
Reports from Palestinian media outlets on Sunday said that two Palestinians were injured after Israeli forces raided Abu Laila’s hometown of al-Zawiya in the Salfit district.
“Israeli forces fired rubber-coated steel bullets and stun, injuring two Palestinians in the abdomen and leg,” Ma’an News Agency reported.
Clashes also erupted in the nearby town of Kafr al-Dik after Israeli Israeli soldiers prevented residents from entering or leaving the town. One Palestinian from the town was hospitalized after being shot in the face with a tear gas bomb.
In the early morning hours on Monday, Israeli forces raided Abu Laila’s home and questioned his father before detaining both the teenager’s parents and brother.
Two other identified Palestinians from his hometown of al-Zawiya were arrested for allegedly aiding Abu Laila in the attack.
As of Monday afternoon, Israeli forces had yet to find the teenager.
Israeli politicians capitalize off tensions
The attack on Sunday came just two days after a flare up between Israel and Hamas forces in the besieged Gaza Strip after Israeli forces bombarded the Gaza Strip with airstrikes, after two rockets from Gaza were fired at Tel Aviv on the night before. Hamas officials later made statements that the rockets, which cause no harm, were fired as a “mistake.”
The rise in tensions across the occupied Palestinian territory have come at a strategic time for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is running a heated campaign against former Israeli army general Benny Gantz, over who can better establish security for Israelis.
During the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Israeli media reported that Netanyahu said he was “certain” that Israeli forces would apprehend the alleged attacker, and “we will deal with them to the fullest extent of the law, as we have done in all of the recent incidents.”
Netanyahu even visited the site of the attack, according to Haaretz, and said that he gave instructions to begin demolishing the home of Abu Laila and that “preparations have already begun.”
Culture Minister Miri Regev of Netanyahu’s Likud party was one of the first to release a statement following the attack, blaming it on “incitement” by Palestinian MK Ahmad Tibi, who she said “encourages shahids and wouldn’t condemn the murder of innocent people.”
As part of her ongoing public “warnings” that Gantz wants to form a parliamentary majority with the Palestinian lawmaker, Regev went on to say that Gantz “wants to sit with that person” in government.
“Gantz and [Kahol Lavan co-leader Yair] Lapid want to form a bloc with that person … This is the sort of left that will lead us to these kinds of attacks,” she said.
Responding on Twitter, Gantz’s Kahol Lavan party condemned Regev for her comments, saying “Never in the history of the state has it happened that a minister in Israel has exploited the deaths of those killed in terror attacks for political propaganda even before the funerals of the dead.”
“For the honor of the victims we will not respond at this time,” the statement said.