5 Killed, Several Wounded in Tel Aviv, West Bank Terror Attacks

American, Israeli and Palestinian killed in shooting and car ramming attack in Gush Etzion; earlier, two Israelis killed in stabbing in Tel Aviv; at least some of victims said to be praying when they were attacked.

The scene of the attack in the Alon Shvut settlement, West Bank, November 19, 2015.
The scene of the attack in the Alon Shvut settlement, West Bank, November 19, 2015. Tomer Applebaum

Three people were killed and five others were wounded in a shooting and car ramming attack in the Gush Etzion region of the West Bank on Thursday afternoon, just a few hours after a stabbing attack killed two in Tel Aviv. The assailants in both incidents were detained. 

According to initial details, a Palestinian motorist armed with an Uzi submachine gun opened fire toward cars near the settlement of Alon Shvut around 4:35 P.M., killing three people. He continued driving toward Gush Etzion Junction, where he lost control of the vehicle, ramming into another car. He was then arrested.

An 18-year-old American yeshiva student, Ezra Schwartz, and a 24-year-old Palestinian, Shadi Arafa of Hebron, were pronounced dead on the scene.

A 51-year-old Jewish Israeli man, Yaacov Don of Alon Shvut, died of his wounds at the Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center. Five people were lightly wounded in the attack, including American nationals, according to some reports.  

It was initially suspected that the Palestinian killed in the attack was an assailant as well.

Earlier, two people were killed and one was wounded in a stabbing attack on Ben Tzvi Road in Tel Aviv on Thursday afternoon. The two were identified as Reuven Aviram, 51, a resident of Ramla, and Aharon Yesayev, 32, a resident of Holon. The wounded individual is in moderate condition. The Palestinian assailant was lightly wounded and is in custody. At least some of the victims were reportedly in prayer at the time they were assaulted. Witnesses said after the assailant stabbed two people, those in the room managed to close a door behind him, after which he stabbed a third victim.

According to a Magen David Adom rescue services spokesperson, the stabbing occurred near the entrance to the Panarama Building in southern Tel Aviv. The assailant was overpowered by a civilian in the area and then taken into custody by a traffic policeman in the storeroom of a shoe store. After launching a search for a second suspect, police confirmed the assailant acted alone.

The 36-year-old assailant, a Palestinian from the West Bank town of Dura near Hebron identified as Riad Mahmoud Al-Masalma, received a permit to enter Israel approximately a month ago. He had been working at a local Bukharan restaurant. He told police investigators he entered in order to attack and kill Jews. He had no prior record of security-related offenses, the Shin Bet security service said.

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A spokesman for the Hamas islamist movement based in Gaza, Hussan Badran, welcomed the terrorist attack, calling it "an act of bravery" and referring to the victims as "Zionist settlers." 

Magen David Adom paramedics Moshe Danenberg and Yonit Niviv were among the first responders and described the chaotic scene. "An unconscious 32-year-old man suffering from stab wounds was at the front of the building. He did not have a pulse and was not breathing. Next to him was a man in his 30s, who had stab wounds to his upper body."

"We found a man in his 50s on the floor below the two," Danenberg and Niviv continued. "All were given medical attention at the scene, then immediately evacuated to Ichilov Hospital."

President Reuven Rivlin drew a parallel between Thursday's incidents in Tel Aviv and the West Bank, and the recent attacks in Paris and Sinai.

“Our hearts are pained and broken," Rivlin said in a statement. "The pain is the same pain. The mourning is the same mourning in Tel Aviv, in Paris, in Gush Etzion, and in the Sinai. The pornography of death is striking across the world.

“Fundamentalist Islamism is a danger to all free nations everywhere, and we must fight against it unequivocally," he said. 

Following the attacks, Science, Technology and Space Minister Ofir Akunis called to impose a closure on Hebron.

"Hebron is a launching pad for heinous murderers, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the perpetrators of the cruel Tarpat riots [1929 Hebron massacre]. Back then, like today, this stems from pure hatred of Jews."

These were the first terror attacks since last Friday, when Rabbi Ya'akov Litman and his son Netanel were killed in a shooting attack south of Hebron in the West Bank. The two were driving with five other family members to a family event in the southern town of Meitar.

The Tel Aviv incident the first attack in central Israel in two-and-a-half weeks, when four people were wounded in two stabbing attacks in Rishon Letzion and Netanya. A 70-year-old man was seriously wounded in the stabbing attack in the coastal city of Netanya, while a 31-year-old man and 80-year-old woman were critically injured earlier that day in Rishon Letzion. A man in his twenties was slightly injured in the earlier attack.