The Palestinian who allegedly killed two soldiers at Givat Assaf junction last week is believed to have joined his brother outside of the West Bank settlement of Ofra earlier that week in shooting a pregnant woman, causing the death of the baby she was carrying.
The assailant at the Givat Assaf outpost, where a soldier and civilian were also badly hurt, was identified by Palestinian reports as Assam Barghouti. His brother Salah Barghouti was allegedly one of two terrorists who carried out the attack at Ofra, in which seven people were injured and an infant of one of the injured women died shortly after being delivered. Salah Barghouti was killed by the police counter-terrorism unit three days later.
Assam Barghouti, 29, of the village of Kobar north of Ramallah, had served an 11-year sentence in an Israeli prison for security offenses, including planning to abduct soldiers, He was released in April.
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The two brothers are suspected of carrying out the attack at Ofra together. In both attacks the assailants used Kalashnikov assault rifles. While there was only one person known to be involved in the attack at Givat Assaf on the soldiers, at Ofra, one person drove a car while a passenger fired at the hitchhiking stand.
The Palestinian news agency Safa reported on Thursday that Israeli army forces raided the Barghouti family’s home village and arrested four young people. Troops entered the house of Omar Barghouti – the brothers’ father – questioned his wife and other relatives and searched the house. They then threatened to have the house demolished within the next several days.
Omar Barghouti is a high-ranking Hamas official in the West Bank and has spent Israeli prison terms amounting to 28 years.
The cell the brothers allegedly belong to is also said to be responsible for a series of terror attacks in recent months in the Ramallah region, defense sources believe. Shortly after the attacks, former senior defense officials criticized the arrmy and Shin Bet following a preliminary evaluation that the terrorists were not lone assailants.Some of those alledgely involved in the attacks were also already known to the army and the Shin Bet.
The army said in response that the attacks were not the result of an intelligence failure. Asked why the army had not detected the preparations for the attacks before they occurred, even though the unit’s members came from families known to the defense establishment, a senior Central Command officer said: “We keep asking ourselves if we could have discovered the cell earlier. It was not a case of knowing about the cell and failing to act,” he said. “We foil hundreds of attacks a year, some of them at the last moment.”
But the officer added that the army will have to reexamine its intelligence analysis in the region. The army did not know whether all the squad members had been captured, he added.