Quick Response by Off-duty Israeli Soldier Likely Saved Lives in West Bank Attack

Additional family members were hiding during attack ■ Details of West Bank stabbing reveal security flaws in Israeli settlement of Halamish

Israeli ZAKA emergency response members are seen in the Israeli settlement of Halamish, Saturday, July 22, 2017. Israel's military has sent more troops to the West Bank and placed forces on high alert a day after a Palestinian stabbed to death three members of an Israeli family and Israeli-Palestinian clashes erupted over tensions at the Holy Land's most contested shrine. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
Tsafrir Abayov/AP

The stabbing attack by a Palestinian on Friday evening in which three members of the same family in the West Bank settlement of Halamish were killed may have taken the lives of others had it not been for the actions of a neighbor, an off-duty soldier.

The soldier, a 22-year-old member of the Israeli army's Oketz canine unit, shot and wounded the assailant, who has been identified as Omar al-Abed, after he stabbed three members of the Salomon family, with others hiding in an other room.

In a video statement released by the Israel Defense Force Spokesman's Office, the soldier said he had been having Friday night dinner with his own family when they heard screaming coming from the Salomons' house.  He recounted that they went outside to see what was happening and then the soldier ran back home to grab his weapon.  

"I stood outside [the Salomon's] house and saw the terrorist through the window. I fired one bullet at him and hit him in the abdomen. Mainly I was in the right place at the right time," he said.

Elad Salomon, who was killed in a terror attack in the West Bank settlement of Halamish, with his wife, Michal and their children.

The three people killed in the stabbing attack have been identified as Yosef Salomon, 70, and his adult children, Chaya, 46 and Elad, 36. Tova Salomon, 68, Yosef Salomon's wife and the mother of Elad and Chaya, was wounded in the attack. In the course of the attack, Elad Salomon's wife, Michal, managed to move the couple's children into another room and to hide them from the attacker,

"This isn't the first time that we have experienced an event of this kind," the soldier said in the army video. "Three years ago a similar incident occurred at my [own] house with my little sister, when a terrorist entered and attacked her. Miraculously, that incident ended with results that were better than this time."

The incident revealed some flaws in security procedures at Halamish. According to a preliminary investigation, it took Abed just a few minutes to reach the home of his victims after he breached the perimeter fence of Halamish. Army Spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis told correspondent that 15 minutes elapsed between Abed touching the fence and being shot by the off-duty soldier.

Defense Minister Lieberman, center, at the scene of attack in Halamish
Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry

The army said it would investigate why the alarm that was set off when Abed touched the perimeter fence was transmitted to civilian security forces but not the army, so that the army learned of the incident later and troops only arrived on the scene after reports of an attack started spreading.

Abed walked 2.5 kilometers from his village to the settlement, carrying a bag containing a Koran, his wallet and a water bottle. Before setting out he posted his last words on Facebook, an hour and forty minutes before the attack, writing that he planned to "die for Al Aqsa."

According to the army, the assailant, Omar al-Abed, told investigators that he had decided to take action in response to the recent events surrounding the Temple Mount and purchased a few days ago a knife to be used in the attack. Abed told investigators that he identifies with Hamas, but the Shin Bet does not consider him a Hamas activist.