Tuesday, Aug 09, 2022

Palestinian Attackers Kill Three Israelis On Israel's Independence Day

This is the latest of Palestinian attacks in Israel in last two months in which 18 Israelis have been killed.

Israeli security forces personnel in an operation
Israeli security forces personnel in an operation Twitter/Israeli Defense Forces

Two Palestinian attackers on Thursday night killed at least three Israelis and wounded four in a stabbing spree in a town near Tel Aviv, according to Israeli authorities. Israel observed its Independence Day on Thursday.

The attackers fled after stabbing these people and the police has since launched a massive hunt for them, setting up roadblocks and roping in a helicopter.  

Israeli-Palestinian tensions were already soaring prior to Thursday's attacks with a string of Palestinian deadly attacks in Israel and clashes at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque in recent weeks. 

The Thursday's attack is the latest of Palestinian attacks inside Israel that have killed at least 18 Israelis in last two months. Just last Friday, an Israeli man was shot dead in West Bank by Palestinian attackers. A total of 27 Palestinians have also been killed in this period, including those who carried out these attacks in Israel.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennet said following the attack, "We will get our hands on the terrorists and their supportive environment, and they will pay the price." He was huddled with senior security officials till late Thursday.

Earlier on Thursday, the Israeli police and Palestinians had clashed at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, which has been the site of multiple clashes between the two sides in recent weeks. Over 150 people were injured in clashes on April 15 at the mosque, which is the third holiest site of Muslims built on a hilltop that's holiest for Jews who refer to it as Temple Mount.

Alon Rizkan, a medic with Israel's Magen David Adom rescue service, described a "very difficult call" when he arrived at the scene in Elad, an ultra-Orthodox town near Tel Aviv. He said he identified three dead people at various locations. At least four others were wounded, one critically, as per officials.

Israeli media quoted police as saying there were two assailants, and just before midnight, police said they were still searching for the attackers. They called on the public to avoid the area and urged people to report suspicious vehicles or people to them. 

Israel marked its Independence Day on Thursday, a festive national holiday in which people typically hold barbecues and attend air shows.

Defence Minister Benny Gantz ordered a closure on the West Bank, imposed ahead of the holiday and preventing Palestinians from entering Israel, to remain in effect until Sunday.

In Washington, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said US officials "vehemently condemn" the attack in Elad. He said, "This was a horrific attack targeting innocent men and women, and was particularly heinous coming as Israel celebrated its Independence Day. We remain in close contact with our Israeli friends and partners and stand firmly with them in the face of this attack."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose government administers autonomous zones in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, condemned the attack.  

"The killing of Palestinian and Israeli civilians leads only to more deterioration at a time when all of us try to achieve stability and prevent escalation," the official Wafa news agency quoted him as saying. 

The Palestinian militant group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, praised the attack and linked it to violence at the Jerusalem holy site. Its spokesperson Hazem Qassem said, "The storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque can't go unpunished. The heroic operation in Tel Aviv is a practical translation of what the resistance had warned against."

Israel and Hamas fought an 11-day war last year, fuelled in large part by similar unrest in Jerusalem. At least 243 people were killed in Gaza and 12 in Israel in the last year's war, according to reports. Israel at the time said it killed at least 225 militants in its attacks.

(With AP inputs)