News Digest — 5/6/22

3 Dead In Terror Attack In Central Israel, 4 Wounded

Three people were murdered and four wounded Thursday evening (5th) in a terror attack in Elad, a small city in central Israel.

Two victims are in critical condition, one is in moderate condition and another was mildly injured.

Two assailants carried out the act of terror with an ax and a knife, eyewitnesses told Hebrew media.   The two suspects have been identified as 19-year-old Assad al-Rafai and 20-year-old Tzabahi Abu Shakir, both from the Jenin area.  Security services released their pictures and asked the public’s help in locating them.  Meanwhile a manhunt continues for their arrest.

The incidents occurred at the conclusion of Israel’s Independence Day, which was immediately preceded by Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers and the Victims of terror.

“Unfortunately, three people on whom we performed CPR  have been pronounced dead.  We also treated two people in serious condition, one person in moderate condition, and a number of people lightly injured,” said Moshe Sa-adon, head of the Elad chapter of United Hatzalah, a volunteer-based emergency medical services organization.

Several bystanders were treated for trauma.

The three victims in the deadly attack have been identified as 40-year-old Yonaton Habakuk, a father of five, 40-year-old Boaz Gol, a father of five and 35-year-old Oren Ben Yiftach, a father of six from Lod.  Together they leave behind sixteen children.

The Elad municipality issued a statement telling people to stay in their homes “due to an emergency in the city” and asked residents to report any suspicious person or incident to the police.

According to eyewitnesses, the attacks took place in several locations, including on Elad’s main street and the Elad Amphitheater Park, where many families were celebrating the end of Independence Day.

Hamas welcomed the “heroic, high-quality attack,” according to the Gaza news agency Shihab.  “The operation is a serious blow to the occupation and its security system,” the terror group said, referring to the “crimes of the occupation” and the “settlers invasions of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

“Our people will continue its struggle and defense of the Al-Aqsa Mosque by all means, and its attacks will reach the Zionists and the herds of settlers wherever they go.  The Zionist occupation will pay the price for its crimes against our people, and our people will not stop until the occupation stops,” a Hamas spokesman said.

On Friday morning (6th) Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with senior officials of the defense establishment saying, “Our enemies have embarked on a murderous campaign against Jews wherever they are.  Their purpose is to break our spirit but they will fail.  We will lay our hands on the terrorists and on those who support them and they will pay the price.”

The attack in Elad marks the sixth deadly attack since the end of March that has killed 18 Israelis.  



US, EU Ambassadors Condemn Elad Terror Attack

The US and EU Ambassadors to Israel condemned the terrorist attack in which three people were killed in the haredi city of Elad Thursday night (5th).

EU Ambassador Dimiter Tzantchev said following the attack; “I am horrified by reports of another brutal attack in Elad in central Israel that killed several people as Independence Day came to a close.  This kind of cowardly violence will never win!  Our thoughts are with the families of the victims – wishing a speedy recovery to those injured.”

US Ambassador Tom Nides added: “Heartbreaking end to Independence Day in Elad.  I share the grief of families of those murdered in the terrorist attack & wish speedy recovery to the wounded. This must STOP!”

According to preliminary reports, the terrorists attacked people with an ax on a city street in Elad before moving to a nearby parked car to continue the killing spree.  Police spokesperson Eli Levy said that there were reportedly two attackers, one with an ax and one with a knife.



Following Elad Attack: Gantz Orders Extension Of Closures On Judea And Samaria

Following the terrorist attack in Elad, Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Thursday evening (5th) held an assessment of the situation with the participation of Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) Chief Ronen Bar, and other top defense officials.

At the conclusion of the assessment of the situation, the Minister of Defense instructed that the closure in Gaza and Judea and Samaria be extended at this stage until Sunday (8th).  The general closure had been ordered for both Memorial Day and Independence Day.

At the end of the week, another assessment of the situation will take place.

Gantz also ordered that the police forces be reinforced as they search for the terrorists who carried out the attack and that all forces necessary be used to close the seam area and the crossings in order to prevent a possible escape of the terrorists to Palestinian Authority-assigned areas in Judea and Samaria.

At the conclusion of the assessment of the situation, the Minister of Defense said that this was a serious attack, and a part of other recent attacks.  He added that the terrorists would pay a price for their attacks and incitement. 

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Gantz sent condolences to the families of the dead and wished the wounded a rapid recovery.



Israelis Flocked To Beaches, Parks To Celebrate Independence Day

Israelis of all ages flooded the nation’s beaches, parks, and hiking trails on Thursday (5th) celebrating the Jewish State’s 74th Independence Day.

Festivities commenced on Wednesday evening (4th) with a ceremony on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem featuring the traditional torch lighting ceremony and the display of the handover of the state and military flags during which a military unit is tasked with safeguarding the State of Israel and the Israel Defense Forces for the coming year, which usually boasts a fireworks finale.

Thousands nationwide then attended street parties and shows that ran into the early hours of Thursday morning (5th)   

By mid-morning, parks and beaches were packed with Israelis who wanted a front-row seat to the main attraction: the traditional military flyby and naval flotilla.

As in previous years, the IDF opened its bases to the public.  The practice was briefly suspended in 2020-2021 over the coronavirus pandemic, but the military again resumed it.

The flyby is the most popular event of the day, and the Israeli Air Force did not disappoint, holding eight aerobatics and formation flights throughout the day.

The Israeli Navy sent most of its vessels in the Red Sea and all of the naval police vessels on a flotilla along the Eilat coast, while ships stationed elsewhere along the Israeli coastline edged slightly closer to the shore for a while, to beachgoers’ delight.

Meanwhile the traditional International Bible Quiz was held in Jerusalem on Thursday afternoon (5th).

The worldwide competition for Jewish middle and high school students was attended by a long list of dignitaries, including President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

In a first since 2013, the competition was tied, eventually crowning two Israeli teenagers the winners, Dvir Merzbach, 17, from Safed and Hillel Cohen, 16, of Jerusalem.

Earlier in the day, President Herzog hosted 120 distinguished IDF soldiers and officers in the President’s Residence in Jerusalem for an Independence Day ceremony.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in his morning Independence Day address to the nation, called on Israeli youth to “learn from the heroes of our people to take responsibility – to stand up and do.  To fix the country If something is broken – ‘fix it.’  If something is wrong – ‘act’”



Palestinian Authority, Jordan In Bid To Prevent Hamas Takeover Of Temple Mount

The Palestinian Authority and Jordan are working together to stop Hamas from controlling  the Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound (Temple Mount), a PA official revealed on Thursday (5th).

The official told The Jerusalem Post that Ramallah and Amman have already taken a number of steps to prevent Hamas supporters from “commandeering” protests of Muslim worshipers against Israeli measures, including visits of Jews to the site.

The official refused to provide any details.  However, Palestinian sources pointed out that activists belonging to Fatah, the ruling faction headed by PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, have been deployed at the compound in the past two weeks in a show of force and a warning to Hamas supporters.

In addition, the Jordanian-controlled Waqf Department, which administers the affairs of the Aqsa Mosque compound, has instructed its security guards to remove Hamas banners from the area, the source said.  The guards were also instructed to stop worshipers from bringing fireworks and other objects into the compound.

During Ramadan, thousands of worshipers chanted slogans in support of Hamas and raised the group’s flag, while others denounced Abbas.

According to the official, Israel and Jordan are close to reaching an understanding of the Waqf Islamic religious trust’s responsibilities, including the hiring of new guards.  However, Waqf officials are complaining that Israel “must approve the appointees and they must pass security clearance by Israeli authorities.”  

Ahmed Ruwaidi, an advisor for Jerusalem Affairs at the PA head’s office, said that the Palestinians are opposed to any interference by Israeli authorities in the management of the compound.