Two Israelis Killed in West Bank Terror Attack; Manhunt for Shooter Underway

Israeli forces raid home of Palestinian suspect, former employee of factory where shooting occurred ■ Police suspect shooting may have been revenge attack

Security forces at the scene of the attack, West Bank, October 7, 2018.
Moti Milrod

Two Israelis were killed and a third was wounded in a West Bank shooting attack on Sunday morning.

The two victims were identified as Ziv Hajbi, 35, and Kim Yehezkel-Levengrond, 29, both married with children. A third casualty, a 54-year-old woman, was hospitalized in moderate condition. Hundreds attended Yehezkel-Levengrond's funeral on Sunday evening. Hajbi will be laid to rest on Monday at noon.

Israeli security forces identified the suspect as Ashraf Walid Saliman Na'alwa, a 23-year-old Palestinian man from Shuwaykah in the West Bank who worked at a Barkan factory. Before carrying out the attack, Na'alwa gave a coworker a note in which he said he planned to commit suicide and praised late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The note has led security forces to conclude that the shooting was a terror attack.

>> Analysis: Following attack, Israeli defense officials fear collective punishment could ignite West Bank

Ziv Hajbi, 35, and Kim Yehezkel, 29, the victims of a deadly shooting in the West Bank, October 7, 2018.
The Palestinian shooter seen fleeing the scene after opening fire at a factory in the West Bank on October 7, 2018.
Screengra / YouTube / Haaretz

Eyewitnesses said the attack unfolded when the suspected assailant arrived at work at 7 AM after a two-week absence. The shooter went upstairs into the office where the attack would later take place before walking downstairs to his workroom, where he collected zip-ties and a weapon. 

He then returned to the office upstairs, where he approached Yehezkel and tied her hands with a zip-tie. Another worker took notice and was shot in the stomach by the assailant. The wounded worker managed to return to her office and hide under her desk. The assailant then shot Yehezkel twice. The third victim, Hajbi, heard the sound of gunfire and attempted to flee, at which point the assailant shot and killed him.

The shooter later encountered another worker in the factory, who drew a pistol, shot at him and missed. The assailant attempted to shoot back, but his gun jammed and he escaped. The shooter then fled the scene and the Israel Defense Forces launched a manhunt.

The IDF has since raided the assailant's home and arrested indivuals suspected of aiding the shooter. IDF Spokesman Ronen Manelis called the shooting "a serious terror attack." Based on the fact that Yehezkel's hands were tied, authorities believe that the assailant originally intended to abduct the victims.

Employees of the Barkan industrial area have been told to remain indoors while police and military forces are scouting the area. Police investigators are bringing to the scene suspects who are familiar with the area and previously worked in the factory.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu extended his condolences to the families of the slain employees and said he is "sure we will bring the terrorist to justice soon" during a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.

"This was not only an attack on innocent people going about their daily lives, it was also an attack on the possibility of Israelis and Palestinians coexisting peacefully," President Reuven Rivlin said following the attack. 

Palestinian shooter flees scene of Barkan factory incidentHaaretz
The shooting incident at the Barkan industrial areaHaaretz

"I call on the Palestinian leadership to condemn this murderous attack and to use the forces at their disposal to capture the terrorist and those who aided him," Rivlin added.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said "the Israeli military and security forces are carrying out a widespread manhunt to track down the evil terrorist who carried out the terror attack in Barkan. It’s a matter of time until we get our hands on him."

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman took to Twitter, writing: "The Barkan Industrial Zone has been a model of Israeli-Palestinian coexistence since 1982, with thousands working and prospering together. Today a terrorist shattered that harmony by brutally murdering two Israelis at work. Our deepest condolences to the families of the victims."

'No signs'

The shooter was one of 250 Palestinian employees working at the trash recycling factory. His supervisor described him as a "normal employee" and said he did not suspect him.

The suspect still worked in the factory as recently as two weeks ago and the circumstances of his departure from the factory are still unclear, police said. A source familiar with the investigation said the attacker used a Karl Gustav rifle.

"There were no signs, he was entirely normal," the supervisor told Haaretz. "He didn't speak a single word of Hebrew, so we always spoke with an interpreter. He was a good worker. Any time I needed something fixed I could rely on him. When he didn't come to work for two weeks, we assumed he was having trouble at home, something personal. I told myself, when he sorted out the problem, he'd be back."

The office at the factory where the shooting took place, West Bank, October 7, 2018.
Moti Milrod
Barkan industrial zone in the West Bank where the shooting took place, October 7, 2018
Moti Milrod
The entrance to the factory where a shooting incident took place in the Barkan industrial area of the West Bank, October 7, 2018.
Moti Milrod

The supervisor added, "today he came to work after a long absence, worked from the morning, even fixed an electrical fault, and suddenly went upstairs and did what he did."

Employees at the factory say the assailant had only been working there for four months and that contrary to police reports, he was not fired. The employees said they didn't know him because he was relatively new there.

"We work here based on trust, I believe in coexistence, but someone like this ruins everything you build. Palestinian employees are confused too," one employee said.  

Sources in the defense establishment said there was no alert on an upcoming terror attack in the area, but did note that the fact that the shooter climbed to the second floor of the factory and fired on people in a specific room strengthens the assessment that it was an attempted revenge attack.

Sources also said that the nature of the shooting may imply that the shooter acted alone. Nevertheless, security forces are still investigating whether the attacker received his weapon from terror groups.

The Barkan industrial area where the shooting took placeGoogle Maps

The Barkan industrial area, which was established in 1982, is one of 14 industrial areas that Israel set up beyond the Green Line. Barkan is a highly populated area, and only 14 out of the 728 dunams that it was allocated are empty. Some 80 percent of the produce of Barkan factories is used for export.

'Bridge of coexistence'

Hamas released a statement in response to the shooting, saying: "The attack in Barkan is a new chapter in the struggle of the Palestinian people in the West Bank and a message to the young people of the West Bank and Gaza who are under siege."

The Islamic Jihad organization also issued a statement and congratulated the shooter. "The attack in the area of Ariel is a natural response to the crimes of the occupation in Gaza, Jerusalem and Khan al-Ahmar and against those who hurt children. It's a response to those who oppose the occupation and the continued damage inflicted on Palestinians. [Israel] shouldn't expect such events to take place without a reaction." 

Yossi Dagan, the head of the Samaria Regional Council, where Barkan is located, said in response that the "attacker opened fire at one of the largest offices of the Barkan industrial area. This is a very difficult incident at a place that is a bridge of coexistence at the heart of Samaria."

Dagan added: "There are more than 8,000 employees in this industrial area, half of which are Jewish and half of which are Arab. I see Arabs and Jews who are sitting together and crying here. We will never break down. The Zionist project in Samaria, as well as everywhere else in the State of Israel, will continue in full force."

Israeli military chief Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot recently warned ministers of a potential uptick in violent attacks across the West Bank, but according to initial assessments there is no connection between the shooting and Eisenkot's warning.

Last month, a 40-year-old Israeli man, Ari Fuld, was killed in a stabbing attack at the entrance to a mall near the West Bank's Gush Etzion Junction. 

Fuld, a father of four from the settlement of Efrat, managed to shoot the assailant, a 17-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank village of Yatta near Hebron, who was later identified as Khalil Jabarin. The assailant suffered moderate wounds and was hospitalized.