Seven Wounded, One Seriously, in Shooting Attack Near West Bank Settlement

Seriously wounded pregnant woman stabilized overnight, baby's condition deteriorated ■ Two men in their 20s moderately wounded, four 16-year-olds lightly wounded ■ Manhunt underway

Site of the shooting near West Bank settlement of Ofra, December 9, 2018.
AMMAR AWAD/Reuters

Seven people were wounded in a drive-by shooting attack near the settlement of Ofra in the West Bank on Sunday evening. Security forces have launched a manhunt for the assailants.

One of those wounded was a 21-year-old pregnant woman who was in serious condition after sustaining wounds to her upper body. She was evacuated to Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem, where doctors delivered her baby prematurely. On Monday morning, the hospital's director said the woman's condition stabilized during the night, while the baby's condition worsened and was now in critical condition.

Location of the attack (Ofra)

The rest of the victims were also evacuated to a number of hospitals in Jerusalem, including a 21-year-old man who sustained moderate wounds to his lower limbs and a 22-year-old man was also moderately wounded. The other victims are two 16-year-old girls and two 16-year-old boys, all of whom sustained light wounds.

According to people in the settlement, the 21-year-old woman was waiting for a ride together with her husband, who was also wounded and is in moderate condition. The two live in the area, but not in Ofra.

Israeli security forces and emergency personnel work at the scene of what an initial report from the Israeli army said was a shooting attack, near the Israeli settlement of Ofra, in the occupied West Bank December 9, 2018.
AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS

The Israel Defense Forces said the shooting was conducted from a moving vehicle and targeted civilians trying to catch a ride from the nearby junction. According to rescue services, the shooting targeted a group of people located near the entrance to the town. 

An IDF force stationed nearby fired at the vehicle before the driver fled the scene. Footage from the scene shows a white vehicle slowing down near the hitchiking stop and stopping briefly. After shots are fired from the vehicle, IDF soldiers shoot at the car, which then continued north on Route 60. 

The IDF said it is searching for the shooter in the nearby village of Silwad and has set up checkpoints. Palestinian residents reported that large military forces entered Silwad, which is east of Ramallah, and have raided a house. Residents also reported that the IDF is searching in the nearby village of Ein Yabrud, just west of Ofra. The troops collected security cameras located in the village.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented on the attack in a video clip on his official Facebook page: “Everyone is praying for the wellbeing of the young woman who is fighting for her life – her baby was saved, and we are also wishing a speedy recovery to all the wounded. We will not rest until we find these murderous criminals and bring them to justice.” Sara Netanyahu, the prime minister’s wife, also wished the victims a speedy and full recovery in the video.

President Reuven Rivlin said on Monday morning: “We are praying with great concern for the recovery of the wounded in the criminal terrorist attack, and among them the young mother who brought life to the world out of the horror.” Rivlin wished the victims a quick recovery and praised “all the security forces who are chasing down the terrorists relentlessly.”    

Hamas praised the terrorist attack late on Sunday: “Despite all the attempts to uproot the resistance to the occupation, the action on [Sunday] evening proves that the principle of resistance is still alive and beating,” said the organization.

U.S. President Donald Trump's special envoy to the Middle East peace process, Jason Greenblatt, slammed the attack as "absolutely disgusting" and criticized the United Nations for failing to pass a resolution condemning Hamas last Thursday.

".@UN this is what you defended last week when you failed to condemn Hamas. Hamas praises yet another terror attack. You had the ability to help fight against terror. Is this what the UN wants its legacy to be?" Greenblatt tweeted late on Sunday.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman also weighed in: "Hamas calls the shooters “heroic” — yes, the same #Hamas that the @UN could not resolve to condemn last week," he wrote.

On Monday morning, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked called on Netanyahu to legalize the status of all the homes in Ofra in response to the shootings. Many homes in the settlement are not included in the town’s master plan and require arrangements to legalize their status. Shaked said she has a draft version ready of the legal arrangements needed to do so.

“Terrorists who carry out such terror attacks know that even if they are caught they will receive a lot of money, they and their families,” and she and Education Minister Naftali Bennett are acting on the issue to prevent Palestinian terrorists from receiving payment for their crimes, said Shaked, referring to a bill that would deduct such funds from money transferred to the Palestinian Authority and use it instead for settlement.

Many other politicians commented on the terrorist attack and wished the victims a speedy recovery, including Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, MK Yair Lapid and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon. Former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman also said that he trusts the IDF and security forces to catch the terrorists quickly.

Meanwhile, the IDF Spokesman's Office said a suspect was arrested in the shooting attack that took place at the Gilboa checkpoint in November. According to the IDF, the suspect and another person suspected of assisting him, have been transferred to the Shin Bet for further investigation.

In October, two Israelis were killed and a third was wounded in a West Bank shooting attack in the Barkan industrial area. The IDF is still searching for the shooter, 23-year-old Ashraf Walid Saliman Na'alwa.

The scene of the terrorist attack, in the West Bank, on Sunday, December 9, 2018.
Magen David Adom
Site of the shooting near West Bank settlement of Ofra, December 9, 2018.
AMMAR AWAD/Reuters