Two Israeli Soldiers Killed in West Bank Car-ramming Attack; Third Soldier in Critical Condition

Fourth soldier moderately wounded ■ Driver questioned at the scene ■ Hamas says attack comes 100 days after Trump's Jerusalem recognition

A member of the Israeli security forces stands next to the destroyed vehicle that was used by a Palestinian assailant in a car-ramming attack, West Bank, March 16, 2018.
JACK GUEZ/AFP

Two Israeli soldiers were killed and two others were injured Friday in a car-ramming attack near the northern West Bank settlement of Reihan.

The victims were taken to Petah Tikva's Beilinson Hospital by helicopter. According to the hospital, one of the soldiers suffered a head injury and is in critical condition, while the fourth was moderately injured. One of the dead was an officer.

The attacker, Ala Rateb Abd al-Latif Kabha

According to the Israeli military, the incident was a terror attack deliberately targeting soldiers. The driver, Ala Rateb Abed al-Latif Kabha, who has served a prison sentence for security offenses, was arrested and questioned at the scene. He sustained light to moderate injuries and was taken to a hospital near Hadera.

An initial investigation revealed that the four soldiers were not standing in a group. The officer and soldier who were killed were standing next to each other and were hit by the car first. The other two soldiers were standing behind a pillbox barrier when they were struck.

During the incident, no one opened fire on the vehicle. According to the initial investigation, the injured soldiers did not appear to have had time to react.

Kabha, 27, is a resident of the town of Barta’a, which straddles the Green Line. Kabha was discharged in April after serving a 17-month prison term. The Shin Bet security service said he has been taken in for interrogation.

Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, has ordered the immediate suspension of work permits for Kabha's family, which has 67 work permits in Israel and 26 commerce permits.

One of the wounded arrives at Bellinson hospital, March 16, 2018
Nir Keidar
Snapshot of a video from the scene
MDA Israel Spokesperson

A relative told Haaretz that Kabha is a house painter. “He came to Jenin to buy paint and was on his way home,” the relative said. “He’s not politically affiliated or part of any organization. We believe this is an unfortunate accident and not a terrorist attack as they claim.”

In a statement, Hamas stopped short of claiming responsibility for the attack but noted that the car ramming happened exactly 100 days after U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Islamic Jihad said it "commends the continued intensification of attacks against the occupation's soldiers and settlers. These are legitimate acts by the Palestinian people meant to defend themselves, their lands and their holy sites."

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, writing on his Twitter account, condemned the attack as an act of terrorism supported by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. He promised that "we will act" for the destruction of the terrorist's home and the punishment of anyone who may have helped him.

Earlier this month, an Israeli Border Police officer and two soldiers were lightly wounded in two separate car-ramming attacks in the northern Israeli city of Acre. The driver was shot by a witness and was hospitalized in critical condition.