Israeli Soldier Killed in West Bank Car Attack; Palestinian Assailant Arrested

Second Israeli lightly wounded after Palestinian ploughed into two Israelis, both in their 20s, at junction outside of the settlement of Ofra

The scene of a car attack that left one Israeli dead in the settlement of Ofra in the West Bank, April 6, 2017.
The scene of a car attack that left one Israeli dead in the settlement of Ofra in the West Bank, April 6, 2017. MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS

An Israeli soldier was killed and another was lightly wounded on Thursday in a suspected car-ramming attack at Ofra Junction in the West Bank.

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Sergeant Elichai Taharlev, 20, was killed earlier today in a car ramming attack in Ofra.
IDF Spokesperson Unit

According to an initial assessment, the driver of a car with Palestinian license plates ploughed into two Israeli soldiers, killing the first young man, Golani Brigade sergeant Elichai Taharlev, 20, and injuring the second, 19. They were standing behind concrete slabs  by a hitchhiking spot, located at the junction outside of the settlement of Ofra.

Taharlev, who was promoted posthumously to the rank of sergeant was buried Thursday evening at Mt. Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem.

The suspected assailant - identified by Palestinians as Malik Ahmed Hamed, 21, from the village of Silwad north of Ramallah - was arrested by Israeli army forces at the scene.

Israeli forces entered Hamed's home in Silwad to question his family.

Investigators said that Hamed planned the attack. Security officials added they spoke to his family, which said he was motivated politically to carry out the attack. Hamed had spent four months in an Israeli prison ago after he was caught climbing the fence of the settlement Adam in 2015.

A volunteer at the emergency medical service United Hatzalah who had treated the victims, Nachum Bienenfeld, said a Palestinian drove his vehicle into a group of soldiers standing near the bus stop. According to Bienenfeld, security poles that were installed after a previous car-ramming attack prevented other civilians who were standing at the bus stop from being injured.

Scene of suspected car-ramming attack in Ofra in the West Bank that left at least one Israeli dead. April 6, 2017.
Emergency Medical Service (EMS)

The 19-year-old victim was evacuated to Hadassah Mount Scopus hospital, the volunteer said.

Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was a "reaction to the crimes of the occupation" that showed the "intifada" – or uprising – was continuing.

Taharlev was doing his army service through the hesder program, which combines military service with Torah study. His father, Ohad, heads the Israeli program at Midreshet Lindenbaum, a women’s yeshiva in Jerusalem. His mother, Avigail, is a department head at the Education Ministry.

Ohad Taharlev, speaking at the entrance to his house in the settlement of Talmon shortly after his son’s death was announced, said he first heard about the attack at around 9:45 A.M., when he was almost at his office, and promptly called his son’s deputy company commander.

“I understood very quickly what had happened,” he said. “I called everyone and told them to come home.”

“I had seven children, and now I have six,” Taharlev continued. “It’s a very difficult feeling.”

He described his son as “a boy who was full of life. He never got angry ... It’s a great loss.”

The Tekoa yeshiva, where Elchai Taharlev studied as part of his hesder program, said he “embodied the combination of love of Torah and dedication to the Jewish people.”

The Talmon local council said he was “talented, modest and very, very loved,” adding, “Grief rends the hearts of his neighbors, friends, members of his youth group and all the many residents of the community who knew Elchai and admired him.”

President Reuven Rivlin also eulogized him. “Today we lost a beloved son, Elchai Taharlev, in Israel’s ongoing battle to ensure its own security and that of its citizens,” he said. “I want to send my deepest condolences to the Taharlev family and the entire community of Talmon and to wish the wounded soldier a speedy recovery.”

“We will not let terror weaken us,” Rivlin added. “Israeli society is strong, and we must stand firm, together, to guard our country and our land.”  

On Saturday, three people were hurt in a stabbing attack in the Old City in Jerusalem. A police officer was moderately wounded, two civilians were lightly hurt and the suspected assailant, a 17-year-old Palestinian from Nablus, was shot dead.

A Palestinian from East Jerusalem was shot and killed last Wednesday by police officers after pulling a pair of scissors and trying to stab a group of officers by the Old City's Damascus Gate.

This is a developing story.