Security forces arrest sister of West Bank gunman who shot dead two Israelis
A the manhunt entered its fifth day, security forces on Thursday arrested the sister of the fugitive Palestinian gunmen who shot and killed two Israelis at a factory in the northern West Bank.
Operations in the village of Shuweika continued as special forces closed in on the home of 23-year-old assailant Ashraf Na’alwa.
Last week, Na’alwa, arrived to the offices of the Alon Group factory in the Barkan industrial zone and shot dead 28-year-old Kim Levengrond Yehezkel and 35-year-old Ziv Hajbi with an illegally manufactured Carlo-style submachine gun. Na’alwa managed to flee the scene of the attack, prompting a massive manhunt.
Na’alwa’s sister Fayrouz, who had already been questioned and released by Israeli forces, was arrested during the pre dawn hours of Thursday morning in her home in Nablus. The Shin Bet refused to divulge on the grounds of her arrest.
Two other Palestinians were arrested in the West Bank overnight, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said.
On Monday, as security forces scrambled to determine whether anyone had helped Na’alwa either carry out the attack or evade capture, Na’alwa’s brother, mother and other sisters were among several people detained for questioning but were later released.
The day after, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman tweeted his confidence that the assailant was “running out of time” after the minister met with an elite undercover unit of the IDF.
Liberman hailed the undercover unit, known as Duvdevan. “This unit does imaginary things, far beyond any suspense book, and we are approaching the terrorist, his time is running out."
Eyewitnesses said that during the attack Na’alwa tied the hands of his first victim, Levengrond Yehezkel, before fatally shooting her at close range. He then shot a 54-year-old female victim in the stomach, moderately injuring her, before shooting dead Hajbi and fleeing the scene.
The army has launched an investigation into how Na’alwa was able to smuggle his weapon into the gated industrial park and into whether he had bound Levengrond Yehezkel with the intention of taking her hostage.
The IDF said that Na’alwa was known to security forces but had no past terror offenses and no formal ties to terrorist groups, saying it appeared to have been a “lone-wolf attack.”
Na’alwa was described by his father, who works in Israel, as "a quiet guy who didn’t look for trouble," according to Haaretz.
“I don’t know what came over him. He may have had an argument with someone there and decided to do what he did. As of now we know nothing about the circumstances. I was very surprised by what happened; there was no sign he was planning such a thing,” he was quoted by the paper as saying.
Police initially suspected that the shooting may have been a revenge attack on the man's employers, but army spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus later called it a "terrorist attack" adding that other unspecified factors were involved.
Palestinian militant groups praised the attack, calling it revenge for Israeli “crimes” towards the Palestinians.
The Palestinian Authority Security services were said to be assisting the search for Na’awala, a Palestinian security official told the Times of Israel.
Israeli politicians including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent condolences to the victims' families and expressed outrage at the attack.
Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin and US ambassador David Friedman both condemned the shooting in the Barkan industrial zone, where thousands of Palestinians and an equal numbers of Jewish Israelis have worked side-by-side for decades, as an attack on coexistence.
Hundreds of mourners attended the funeral of Levengrond Yehezkel, mother to an 18-month-old son who was buried in her hometown of Rosh Ha’Ayin on Sunday evening and the funeral of Hajbi, a father of three, on Monday afternoon who was laid to rest in Nir Yisrael.
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