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Defense chief says IDF closing in on Palestinian gunman who killed two Israelis

Security forces continue their hunt for the terrorist who carried out the attack in the Barkan industrial zone earlier this week.
IDF Spokesperson
Defense Minister Liberman warns that the assailant is 'running out of time'

Israeli Defense Minister Liberman says IDF forces are closing in on Palestinian suspect as their manhunt for the fugitive Palestinian gunman who shot and killed two Israelis at a factory in the northern West Bank enters its fourth day.

On Tuesday, Liberman tweeted his confidence that the assailant was ‘running out of time’ after the minister met with an elite undercover unit of the IDF.

“I have followed closely the tremendous efforts to capture the terrorist who murdered Kim Levengrond Yehezkel and Ziv Hajbi,” Liberman said.

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."

The fugitive gunman, 23-year-old Ashraf Waleed Suliman Na’alwa, arrived to the offices of the Alon Group factory in the Barkan industrial zone on Sunday morning 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 brother, sister, and mother were among several people detained for questioning on Monday as security forces scrambled to determine whether anyone had helped Na’alwa either carry out the attack or evade capture.

Gil COHEN-MAGEN / AFP

IDF special forces, including K-9 units, were participating in the search. Palestinian security services were also assisting, mainly with intelligence.

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.

Hundreds of mourners attended the funeral of Levengrond Yehezkel, mother to an 18-month-old son, on Sunday evening and the funeral of Hajbi, a father of three, on Monday afternoon.

The IDF said Sunday 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.

IDF Spokesperson

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.

Israeli politicians including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent condolences to the victims' families and expressed outrage at the attack.

“Our security forces are in pursuit of the vile killer. I’m sure we’ll catch him and make him answer as soon as possible,” Netanyahu said.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said it was only a “matter of time” before Na’alwa would be apprehended.

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.

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