Israeli army arrests Palestinian attack suspects after manhunt and house demolition

Nearly 50 have been killed in more than a month of violence in the West Bank and Israel

Palestinians inspect damage to Omar Jaradat's family house in the village of Silat Al Harithiya on Saturday. EPA

Security forces apprehended three men on Sunday suspected of involvement in a knife and axe attack that killed three Israeli men in the central Israeli city of Elad last week.

The arrests came amid a continuing wave of violence in recent weeks in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Israel.

Police identified the attackers as 19 and 20-year-old men from the town of Jenin in the occupied West Bank, which has re-emerged as a militant bastion in the latest wave of violence — the worst Israel has seen in years. Several of the alleged attackers in the recent violence have come from Jenin.

On Saturday, Israeli troops demolished the home of a Palestinian man who killed a Jewish seminary student in a shooting ambush in the occupied West Bank five months ago, the military said.

The demolition took place around dawn in the village of Silat Al Khartiyeh, with troops swinging sledgehammers to break walls and setting off explosives. Residents threw stones and firebombs at soldiers who fired live rounds, the army said.

Palestinian medics said three Palestinians were injured by live fire and others by tear gas inhalation.

House demolitions continue

House demolitions have been denounced by rights groups as collective punishment, and the military suspended the practice for several years, from 2005, after concluding it did not serve as an effective deterrent. However, the army resumed demolitions several years ago and now carries them out routinely in response to attacks in which Palestinians kill Israelis.

In the deadly Elad attack four people were also wounded as they were attacked with axes and knives in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish town.

Officials familiar with the investigation said the attackers arrived in Elad in a vehicle driven by one of the victims and then killed him. At least one attacker used an axe, officials said, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss details with the media.

A gag order has been placed on much of the investigation.

At least 18 Israelis have been killed in five attacks since March, including another stabbing rampage in southern Israel, two shootings in the Tel Aviv area, and a shooting last weekend in a West Bank settlement.

Nearly 30 Palestinians have been killed — most of whom had carried out attacks or were involved in confrontations with Israeli forces in the West Bank. But an unarmed woman and two apparent bystanders were also among those killed, and rights groups say Israel often uses excessive force.

Hamas, the Islamic militant group ruling the Gaza Strip, claimed responsibility for one of the attacks in which two assailants killed a security guard at the entrance of a West Bank settlement last week.

Some Israeli media personalities suggested that Israel respond by targeting Yehiyeh Sinwar, Hamas’ top leader in Gaza. On Saturday, the group's armed wing warned Israel of an “unprecedented response” if Sinwar was hurt. Hamas and Israel have fought four wars and dozens of shorter rounds of cross-border skirmishes since 2008.

The continuing conflict plays out against the backdrop of Israel's occupation, now in its 55th year, of the West Bank and other lands Palestinians seek for a state. Serious peace talks collapsed more than a decade ago, while Israel's settlement expansion on occupied lands has continued unabated.

On Friday, Israel said it is set to advance plans for the construction of 4,000 settler homes in the West Bank. If approved, it would be the biggest advancement of settlement plans since the Biden administration took office. The White House is opposed to settlement growth because it further erodes the possibility of an eventual two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Earlier this week, Israel’s Supreme Court upheld an expulsion order that would force at least 1,000 Palestinians out of an arid region in the southern West Bank where they say they have been living for decades. The military declared the area a firing zone in the early 1980s.

Updated: May 08, 2022, 9:29 AM