West Bank Shooting Suspect Hadn't Come to Work for Weeks, Coworkers Say

Workers in the factory where the deadly shooting took place say they did not get to know the suspected assailant very well ■ According to one employee, he may have planned the attack while absent from work

The Palestinian shooter seen fleeing the scene after opening fire at a factory in the West Bank on October 7, 2018.
Screengra / YouTube / Haaretz

The Palestinian man suspected of carrying out a shooting attack on Sunday morning that claimed the lives of two Israelis and wounded a third was an electric worker at the West Bank trash-recycling factory where the shooting took place. 

The two victims were identified as Ziv Hajbi, 35, and Kim Yehezkel, 29. The third casualty is a 54-year-old woman who has been hospitalized in moderate condition.

Kim Yehezkel.

The suspect, a man in his twenties from a Palestinian village near the city of Tulkarm in the West Bank, had a permit to work in Israel. 

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

Ziv Hajbi.

Employees in the factory said they did not know the suspected assailant very well, who had worked there for four months. He was one of 250 Palestinian workers who were employed by the factory. According to his coworkers, he had not come to work over the past couple of weeks due to an illness. 

"He probably planned it over that time," one of the factory's employees told Haaretz. "We work here based on trust, we have good relations, I believe in co-existence. But someone like that ruins everything you've built, the Palestinian employees of the factory are confused too."

The manager of the factory's warehouse, Yogev Fried, said he fired at the assailant during the shooting. "I heard employees calling for me. I ran to the top floor, and when I saw one of the casualties laying there after she was shot, I realized it was a terror attack," Fried recounted. 

"I got out with a gun and scanned every floor. I went into the yard, didn't spot him, and when I got to the road he came close to me and I saw him behind me. He pointed his gun at me, he shot, I fired back in a split second," Fried continued.

Palestinian shooter flees scene of Barkan factory incidentHaaretz

"He was normal, I didn't suspect him. No signs, completely normal," the suspect's manager said. "The guy didn't speak a word of Hebrew. We always spoke through a third party."

Israeli soldiers at the entrance to the West Bank factory where a shooting attack took place on October 7, 2018.
\ Moti Milrod
The scene of the shooting attack in a West Bank factory on October 7, 2018.
\ Moti Milrod

According to the manager, the assailant had not come to work over the past couple of weeks "because he had problems at home, something personal." The manager added that he spoke with the suspect's brother. "He was not aware of [his brother] having any problems. I told myself that he'll take care of his problems and come back," he added. 

The manager added that the suspect "didn't curse, didn't get in fights with anyone, didn't speak unkindly, nothing unusual. Today he came back to work after a long period. He started working in the morning and suddenly he went upstairs and did what he did. He even fixed an electricity problem we had."

The manager described the suspect as a "good employee," adding, "I would send him to fix everything I had to, but he never showed signs of anger or nervousness.''

Speaking about the unrest in the factory after the attack, the manager said employees were "rattled but we'll get past it. People are sitting here frustrated, Jews and Arabs. This will affect them, their income will be hurt, in a month there'll be an [military] blockade [on the area], what will become of them then?"

Yossi Dagan, the head of the Samaria Regional Council, said that the woman who was killed in the attack was found handcuffed. "The horrible sights we saw here illustrate the evilness and cowardice of the Palestinian Authority's terrorists. What kind of lame coward ties up a young woman with handcuffs and then shoots her to death in cold blood?"

A man living in a village near the scene of the attack told Haaretz that he didn't hear the shooting. "The owner of the factory called us and said there was an incident," he recounted. "We came outside and saw all the mess. Then we went back to work. A lot of Palestinians from many villages work in that factory [where the attack took place], they're all always together. This is very strange."

Palestinian employees of the factory where the shooting occurred said that they, too, did not hear the shooting because of the construction there. 

Israeli security forces have launched a manhunt to track down the suspect. "We're looking for him with special units, we've bolstered forces in the West Bank to prevent a copycat attack following this incident," the Israeli military's spokesperson, Ronen Manelis, has said. 

Manelis added that the attacker probably acted on his own. "We are treating him as an armed terrorist who is on the run and we're doing everything we can to catch him."