Three people killed and at least four injured in attack in Israeli town of Elad

Israeli police and medics at the scene of the attack in Elad (Ahmad Gharabli - AFP)

Bethan McKernan

The Guardian  /  May 6, 2022

One or two unidentified assailants, carrying a firearm and an axe, attacked passersby on Thursday night.

Three people have been killed and at least four more injured in the central Israeli town of Elad, in the latest in a spate of street attacks that have sent tensions soaring in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in recent weeks.

One or two as yet unidentified attackers, carrying a firearm and an axe, attacked passersby in a park in the ultra-Orthodox town near Tel Aviv on Thursday night, Israel’s Independence Day, local news reported. At least one person fled the scene in a vehicle.

Israeli forces on Friday launched a manhunt for the perpetrators, backed by a large deployment of security personnel, helicopters, drones and roadblocks. Benny Gantz, the defence minister, announced measures to stop them from “escaping and travelling” to the occupied West Bank, comments that pointed to possible Palestinian suspects.

Israeli police said the incident appeared to be a terror attack and Elad’s mayor called on residents to stay indoors during the manhunt.

Late on Thursday the Israeli prime minister, Naftali Bennett, said: “We will get our hands on the terrorists and their supportive environment, and they will pay the price.”

The injured included two being treated for serious wounds, health officials said.

“The joy of Independence Day was cut short in an instant,” the Israeli foreign minister, Yair Lapid, posted on Twitter. “A murderous attack in Elad that shocks the heart and soul. We will not give in to terror.”

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, condemned the attack. The official Palestinian news agency WAFA quoted him as saying: “The killing of Palestinian and Israeli civilians will only lead to more deterioration of the situation.”

The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, tweeted that the US “vehemently condemn[s] the terrorist attack in Israel today”.

Details on how the violence unfolded remained unclear but several Israeli media reports said the assailants carried knives or an axe, while other reports suggested they used firearms.

Paramedic Alon Rizkan, a first responder, described it as a “complex scene” and identified all the dead as men in their early 40s.

The majority of Elad’s 50,000 residents are members of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community, hundreds of whom gathered in the attack area amid medical personnel and police.

The worst wave of terrorist attacks in Israel in years began in late March, when an Islamic State supporter killed four people in a stabbing and vehicle-ramming incident in the southern city of Beersheba.

Tensions then rose throughout the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which coincided with the Jewish festival of Passover. Several separate attacks in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank carried out by Palestinians and Palestinian citizens of Israel claiming to be from different factions have killed 16 Israelis, including an Arab-Israeli police officer and two Ukrainian nationals.

Three Arab-Israelis and 27 Palestinians have died during the same period, among them the perpetrators of attacks and others killed by Israeli security forces in stepped-up army operations in the occupied West Bank.

The deadly violence has been accompanied by clashes throughout Ramadan at the Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem between Palestinians and Israeli police, in which hundreds of Palestinians have been injured. The site, known as the Temple Mount in Israel, is holy to both Jews and Muslims, and lies at the geographical and religious heart of the decades-old conflict.

The compound’s reopening to Jewish visitors on Thursday morning, after the Eid al-Fitr holiday, was again marked by violent scuffles; after Israeli police moved to arrest one of the Palestinians protesting against the Jewish presence, scuffles broke out in which police fired rubber-coated bullets and Palestinians responded by throwing stones. Two Palestinians were taken to hospital and one police officer was lightly wounded, medics said.

The Palestinian militant group Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, praised Thursday’s attack in Elad but did not claim responsibility for it.

“The storming of al-Aqsa mosque can’t go unpunished,” Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem said. “The heroic operation in Tel Aviv is a practical translation of what the resistance had warned against.”

The escalation of violence in the past six weeks has raised fears of another armed conflict similar to the 11-day war a year ago between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which was in part triggered by unrest at Aqsa.

Informally, Jews are allowed to visit, but not pray at the site. In recent years, however, growing numbers of Jewish visitors, sometimes praying or with police escorts, have inflamed longstanding Palestinian fears that Israel plans to annex the area.

Israel says it is committed to maintaining the status quo, and accuses Hamas of inciting the recent violence.

Bethan McKernan is Jerusalem correspondent for The Guardian

with Reuters and Agence France-Presse


Israel: At least three people killed in attack in ultra-Orthodox town

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  May 5, 2022

Videos posted on social media show medical staff attending to wounded in Elad, some 30km east of Tel Aviv.

At least three people were killed in an attack in an ultra-Orthodox town in central Israel on Thursday, as the country marked its independence day.

An initial statement from Israeli police gave no indication about the circumstances of the attack or the identity of the perpetrators.

Israel’s Magen David Adom emergency response service said the attack left seven casualties – including three dead, two in critical condition, one in moderate condition, and one in mild condition.

According to Israeli media, one of the attackers used a firearm and another attacker had an axe or a large knife. Middle East Eye could not independently verify the reports.

Videos posted on social media showed ambulances rushing to the scene of the attack, along with medical staff attending to the wounded.

The attack in Elad, an ultra-Orthodox town some 30km east of Tel Aviv, comes amid a series of deadly attacks in recent weeks.

A total of 14 Israelis have been killed in four separate shooting and stabbing attacks since March. All five assailants, Palestinians from the West Bank and Israel, were subsequently killed.

At least 50 Palestinians have been killed so far this year by Israeli forces in the West Bank.

Thursday’s attack took place just days before the one year anniversary of Israel’s large-scale military offensive on the besieged Gaza Strip.

Violence spiked last May when Israel tried to expel Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah, a neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem, to make way for Israeli settlers.

This prompted widespread protests across the occupied West Bank and the Palestinian community inside Israel and led to Israel’s 11-day bombing campaign on Gaza.

Israel’s military operation killed 256 Palestinians, including 66 children, according to the UN. In Israel, 13 people were killed by rockets launched from Gaza.


Three killed, four wounded in attack near Tel Aviv, medics say

Al-Jazeera  /  May 5, 2022

Security forces set up roadblocks in the area where the killings occurred in the town of Elad.

Israeli medics have said at least three people were killed in a stabbing attack near Tel Aviv on Thursday night.

Police said the attacker fled in a vehicle. Security forces set up roadblocks in the area around where the killings occurred in the town of Elad.

The Magen David Adom emergency service said three people were killed and four others were wounded; two of the wounded were in serious condition.

Police said the incident, which occurred as Israelis celebrated “independence day”, appeared to be a “terrorist attack”.

Elad’s mayor, speaking on television, called on residents to stay indoors while security forces were still operating. The majority of Elad’s residents are members of Israel’s ultraorthodox Jewish community, known as Haredim.

Alon Rizkan, a medic with Magen David Adom rescue service, described a “very difficult call” when he arrived at the scene in Elad. He said he identified three dead people at various locations and four others who were wounded, two seriously.

The United States said it “vehemently” condemned the incident and was in contact with Israeli authorities.

“This was a horrific attack targeting innocent men and women,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. “Our hearts are with the victims and loved ones of those killed, and we wish those injured a speedy recovery.”

Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have soared in recent weeks, with attacks in Israel, military operations in the occupied West Bank and violence at Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site.

Hamas, the group which governs the besieged Gaza Strip, lauded the attack and linked it to Israeli security forces’ raids in occupied Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque – one of Islam’s holiest sites – but did not claim responsibility for it.

“The storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque can’t go unpunished,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said.

“The heroic operation in Tel Aviv is a practical translation of what the resistance had warned against.”

Israel marked its independence day on Thursday, a festive national holiday in which people typically hold barbecues and attend airshows. For Palestinians, the anniversary of Israel’s 1948 declaration of independence marks the Nakba, or catastrophe, when at least 750,000 people were violently and forcefully expelled from their homes and villages in historical Palestine.

Surge in attacks

Al-Aqsa Mosque compound has been at the centre of weeks of violence following a series of Israeli incursions into the holy site, which began at the start of the holy month of Ramadan.

Earlier on Thursday, Israeli police entered the site to clear away Palestinian protesters following Jewish visits that had been paused for the Muslim holidays resumed. Police fired rubber-coated bullets as some Palestinians sheltered inside the mosque. The Palestinian Red Crescent emergency service said two Palestinians were taken to a hospital after being hit with batons.

The surge of attacks and confrontations during the past month has raised fears of a slide back to a wider conflict similar to last May’s 11-day Israeli assault on Gaza, in which more than 260 Palestinians in Gaza and 13 people in Israel were killed.

Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war and has established dozens of illegal Jewish settlements where nearly 500,000 Jewish settlers reside [excluding East Jerusalem], often under heavy Israeli military protection. Settler attacks against Palestinians and their property are a regular occurrence in the West Bank, as well as in occupied East Jerusalem.

The Palestinian leadership wants the West Bank as part of a future state and views the illegal settlements as a major obstacle to resolving the longstanding conflict.