Jerusalem Post – 03/17/2019 – By ANNA AHRONHEIM
An IDF soldier was killed and two other Israelis were injured in two attacks outside the West Bank settlement of Ariel on Sunday morning.
The soldier was identified as 19 year-old Sgt. Gal Kaidan from Beersheba. Kaidan, who was posthumously promoted to the rank of St.-Sgt., will be buried tomorrow, Monday, at 11 PM in the military cemetery in Beersheba.
According to IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis, at around 9:45 a.m., a Palestinian terrorist attacked a soldier at the Ariel junction and stole his weapon before he shot toward civilians at the junction, hitting three cars passing through.
A 47-year-old male civilian, identified as Rabbi Ahiad Ettinger from the settlement of Eli was driving one of the cars that was struck by the shots fired by the Palestinian attacker and was critically injured.
Ettinger, has 12 children and heads Oz and Emunah Yeshiva in south Tel Aviv.
“We understand he stole the third car before he fled the scene,” Manelis said, adding that the terrorist then continued toward the Gitai Avishar junction, where he carried out a drive-by shooting, injuring another soldier.
“I happened to be passing by the Ariel junction with the car I use to teach driving lessons, when I happened upon the large amount commotion at the Ariel junction,” MDA EMT Hananel Hess said. “I saw soldiers running and heard gunshots. I understood that this was out of the ordinary and I requested that MDA teams respond. Once the shooting stopped, I exited my vehicle and I saw an approximately 20-year-old patient lying unconscious on the ground with gunshot wounds to his upper body. We assessed him and found him to be in critical condition.”
The injured were evacuated to Beilinson Hospital for medical treatment.
The Gitai Avishar junction on Highway 5 is a central intersection of the highway which links Ariel to central Israel, with hundreds of Palestinian workers traveling through it daily.
An eyewitness told the media: “We suddenly saw a passing vehicle, it hit one of the soldiers, we saw it fall suddenly, we took cover behind the concrete blocks, and a lot of soldiers came to try to find out what happened here. I was wondering if I would go back to work, I think there were two soldiers here, I do not remember what the terrorists looked like.”
The IDF has set up checkpoints and has begun checking vehicles in the area and a large number of troops, including special forces, are taking part in the search for the attacker who fled in the direction of the Palestinian village of Burqin and where the car he stole was found.
Authorities have also ordered nearby Israeli communities to shut their entrances until the attacker is apprehended. The gate to the Barkan industrial zone was also ordered to be closed.
The IDF also sealed off the entrances and exits to three local Palestinian villages, Jamma’in, Kifl Haris and Deir Istiya near Nablus, in an effort to find the perpetrator.
“There was a report of a shooting at the Ariel junction in the area of the Ephraim Regional Brigade. The details are under examination,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said in a statement, later adding that following the initial investigations that two separate attacks had taken place.
“The pursuit of the terrorists is ongoing.”
“We are in pursuit of the terrorists at two points in the Ariel area,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “I am certain that they will apprehend them and we will deal with them to the fullest extent of the law as we have done in all of the recent incidents.”
Both Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror groups welcomed the attacks, but did not claim responsibility.
The attack in Ariel was a “response to the crimes of the Israeli occupation, and to the events in Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Hamas said in a statement, adding that “all the acts of oppression and attempts to undermine the resistance will not succeed in defeating the will of our people or preventing them from following the path of jihad.”
PIJ said that the attack “was carried out in order to move the compass and bring the struggle to its natural location.We welcome the attack and salute the rebel heroes in the West Bank.”
Several months ago former IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot warned that there was a high probability of escalation in the West Bank and in November Shin Bet Director Nadav Argaman echoed Eisenkot’s warning, saying that the relative calm in the area was “deceptive” as “Hamas is trying very hard to carry out terror attacks in and from Judea and Samaria.”
In Argaman’s November briefing to the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, he said that security forces have thwarted 480 terror attacks in the West Bank, including 219 attacks planned by Hamas cells and 590 planned by lone wolves.
According to data released by the Shin Bet there has been a steady increase of attacks in the West Bank and Jerusalem over the last several months. In October there was a total of 109 attacks, 116 in November, 138 in December and 138 in January 2019.
Tovah Lazaroff and Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.