News, Culture & Society

Manhunt for two Palestinians after three Israelis killed and four injured in axe rampage

Israel launched a massive manhunt today for two Palestinians who went on an axe rampage that killed three Israelis and wounded four.

The attack took place on Thursday night in Elad, a central city mainly populated by ultra-Orthodox Jews, on the day the Jewish state celebrated its founding 74 years ago in 1948.

Witnesses said two assailants leapt from a car swinging axes at random passers-by, chopping down seven people and killing three, before fleeing in the same vehicle. 

Police have identified the assailants as Assad Yussef al-Rifai, 19, and Subhi Imad Abu Shukair, 20. Israeli security forces have mounted a massive search operation for them.

The Israeli prime minister’s office said the three Israelis who died were Yonatan Habakuk, 44, and Boaz Gol, 49, both from Elad, as well as Ben Yiftah.

‘We will get our hands on the terrorists… and ensure they pay the price,’ Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said.

Above: The funeral for Yonatan Havakuk, killed yesterday by two Palestinians in Elad. Witnesses said two assailants leapt from a car swinging axes at random passers-by, chopping down seven people and killing three, before fleeing in the same vehicle 

Above: The wife of Boaz Gol who was killed in a Palestinian attack yesterday, on the country's independence day, in Elad. The attack followed a tense period in which the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, the Jewish festival of Passover and the Christian holiday of Easter overlapped

Above: The wife of Boaz Gol who was killed in a Palestinian attack yesterday, on the country’s independence day, in Elad. The attack followed a tense period in which the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, the Jewish festival of Passover and the Christian holiday of Easter overlapped

Assad Yussef al-Rifai, 19

Subhi Imad Abu Shukair, 20

Police have identified the assailants as Assad Yussef al-Rifai, 19, and Subhi Imad Abu Shukair, 20. Israeli security forces have mounted a massive search operation for them

Israeli security forces have mounted a massive search operation for two Palestinian killers. Oren Ben Yiftach, a 35-year-old Israeli was killed in the attack. Above: Hundreds of Orthodox Jews attend Yiftach's funeral

Israeli security forces have mounted a massive search operation for two Palestinian killers. Oren Ben Yiftach, a 35-year-old Israeli was killed in the attack. Above: Hundreds of Orthodox Jews attend Yiftach’s funeral

The attack followed a tense period in which the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, the Jewish festival of Passover and the Christian holiday of Easter overlapped. 

The tensions have boiled over into violent clashes between Israelis and Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, a highly contested site in Jerusalem’s Israeli-annexed Old City. 

Palestinians have been angered by an uptick in Jewish visits to the Al-Aqsa compound, where by long-standing convention Jews may visit but are not allowed to pray.

A policeman guards the cordon outside the scene where three people were killed and four others injured in Elad, central Israel

A policeman guards the cordon outside the scene where three people were killed and four others injured in Elad, central Israel

Police gather close to the the scene where three people lost their lives in the central Israeli city of Elad

Police gather close to the the scene where three people lost their lives in the central Israeli city of Elad

Security forces and medics are pictured at the scene as residents are told to remain indoors

Security forces and medics are pictured at the scene as residents are told to remain indoors

Israeli police cordon off an area in Elad, central Israel, after today's attack which occurred as the Jewish state celebrated its independence

Israeli police cordon off an area in Elad, central Israel, after today’s attack which occurred as the Jewish state celebrated its independence

Israel has said the status quo would remain unchanged at the site known to Jews as the Temple Mount.

The Elad attack was condemned by the United States and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, who warned it could lead to spiralling violence.

But the Gaza Strip’s Islamist rulers Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another Palestinian armed group, praised the attack, calling it a consequence of unrest at Al-Aqsa. Neither claimed responsibility.

‘This operation demonstrates our people’s anger at the occupation’s attacks on holy sites,’ Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said of the Elad attack.

‘The storming of the Al-Aqsa mosque cannot go unpunished.’

The majority of Elad's 50,000 residents are members of Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, known as haredim

The majority of Elad’s 50,000 residents are members of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, known as haredim

The tensions have boiled over into violent clashes between Israelis and Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, a highly contested site in Jerusalem's Israeli-annexed Old City

The tensions have boiled over into violent clashes between Israelis and Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, a highly contested site in Jerusalem’s Israeli-annexed Old City

Above: Israeli ultra-Orthodox Jewish mourners take part in the funeral of Yonatan Havakuk and Boaz Goal, in the city of Elad

Above: Israeli ultra-Orthodox Jewish mourners take part in the funeral of Yonatan Havakuk and Boaz Goal, in the city of Elad

As helicopters and drones roared overhead in search of the perpetrators, young ultra-Orthodox Jewish men in crisp white shirts were seen linking arms and chanting near the scene of the attack.

Women gathered on balconies overlooking the site, as masked forensic officers packed the bodies of the dead into bags and police stopped and searched cars.

Yehuda, a 31-year-old IT worker, said he was afraid that ‘the killers have not yet been caught’.

‘We suffer hatred and get murdered with an axe,’ he said, as he attended the funeral of Oren Ben Yiftach, a 35-year-old from Lod who was killed in the attack.

Police asked the public to provide information on the suspects after publishing their pictures and names. They were described as residents of the village of Rummanah near Jenin in the occupied West Bank.

Israel’s Defence Minister Benny Gantz announced measures to stop them escaping.

The majority of Elad’s 50,000 residents are members of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, known as haredim.

Gantz announced a closure of the West Bank – in place for the anniversary – would remain in force through Sunday.

The seven years old son of Boaz Gol who was killed in a Palestinian attack yesterday, on the country's independence day, in Elad, attends his father's funeral in Jerusalem

The seven years old son of Boaz Gol who was killed in a Palestinian attack yesterday, on the country’s independence day, in Elad, attends his father’s funeral in Jerusalem

Jewish mourners gather in Petah Tikva, Israel at the funeral for Yonatan Havakuk, the day after he was killed with two others in a stabbing attack in Elad

 Jewish mourners gather in Petah Tikva, Israel at the funeral for Yonatan Havakuk, the day after he was killed with two others in a stabbing attack in Elad

Prior to Thursday’s incident, a string of attacks since March 22 had killed 15 people, including an Arab-Israeli police officer and two Ukrainians, in separate attacks inside Israel.

Two of the deadly attacks were carried out in the Tel Aviv area by Palestinians.

A total of 27 Palestinians and three Israeli Arabs have died during the same period, among them perpetrators of attacks and those killed by Israeli security forces in West Bank operations.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said ‘the joy of independence day had been interrupted in an instant’.

For Palestinians, the anniversary of Israel’s 1948 declaration of independence marks the Nakba, or ‘catastrophe’, when more than 700,000 fled or were expelled during the war surrounding Israel’s creation.

Last week, Hamas threatened Israel with rocket fire and attacks on synagogues if its security forces carry out further raids on the Al-Aqsa mosque compound.

‘Whoever has a rifle must have it ready, and whoever does not have a rifle must prepare their knife or their axe,’ said Yahya Sinwar, Hamas chief in the Israeli-blockaded Palestinian enclave.

The latest violence on Thursday at Al-Aqsa came following a tense April, in which nearly 300 people were injured in clashes between police and Palestinians at the site.

***
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk