At least three people were killed and four others injured in a terrorist attack in the Israeli city of Elad near Petah Tikva towards the end of Independence Day.
All three victims were men in their 40s.
Two of the victims aged 60 and 35 were seriously wounded and transported to Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer and Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus sedated and intubated. Another 40-year-old male was moderately wounded and transported to Beilinson, and a 23-year-old male who fought with the terrorists was conveyed in mild condition to the hospital.
MDA Paramedic Alon Rizkan, who arrived at the scene and treated the victims called it “a very difficult call.”
“Unfortunately, this incident will be deeply etched in my heart,” said MDA volunteer Moti Tsinvert. “In all my years as an emergency medicine paramedic, I have not encountered such a severe scene of multiple casualties with significant penetrating injuries, residents who went out just to breathe fresh air in the park, and their lives were ended so harshly.”
“This is a massacre and bloodbath that is reminiscent of dark days in the history of Israel. I hope that I and the rest of the emergency services that dealt with the horrific event will be able to return to routine after the difficult images we saw,” added Tsinvert.
Police were investigating the background of the incident and according to reports, the victims were injured by two men, one wielding an ax, in two different locations including near Elad Amphitheater Park.
Checkpoints were deployed along the city’s main roads while police searched by helicopter for a vehicle that was seen fleeing the scene.
The Elad Municipality asked residents to shelter in place.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz spoke with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi following the attack. Israel Police Superintendent Kobi Shabtai arrived at the scene on Thursday evening.
The attack comes toward the end of Independence Day, with many families gathering outdoors to celebrate the country’s 74th anniversary on Thursday evening.
Ahead of Memorial Day and Independence Day, the IDF announced a closure on the West Bank and Gaza Strip with the exception of humanitarian, medical and exceptional cases made with the approval of the IDF’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).
The closure began on Tuesday, May 3 at 15.00 and was set to last until Friday, May 6.
“The joy of Independence Day was cut short in an instant,” said Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Thursday. “A murderous attack in Elad shocks the heart and soul…I send heartfelt condolences to the families who lost their loved ones tonight, and pray with the whole house of Israel for the safety of the wounded.”
“We will not succumb to terrorism. Terrorists can not scare us. The security forces will catch the killers and those who sent them and hold them accountable. We will continue to fight together for our independence and the security of the citizens of Israel,” said Lapid.
The attack in Elad comes as tensions have been high in Israel after a wave of deadly attacks has killed close to 20 Israelis.
The IDF has reinforced troops in the West Bank by 12 battalions for a total of 25 battalions in order to bring the current wave of violence to an end without further attacks. Last week the IDF announced the decision to recruit six reserve battalions in the coming weeks after a situational assessment.
The huge boost in troops allows the military to carry out offensive operations in the West Bank and deploy troops along the security fence in order to prevent Palestinians from crossing into Israel through holes in the fence.
With at least two of the attacks carried out by Palestinians who illegally crossed into Israel through holes in the fence, the IDF has already begun to dig trenches to prevent vehicles from crossing as well as additional defenses along the barrier.
A third attack, at the entrance to the West Bank city of Ariel last week, was carried out by two Palestinians who were driving a stolen Israeli car.
Hamas spokesman Abd al-Latif al-Qanou praised the attack, saying that it was “a heroic and qualitative operation that constitutes a severe blow to the occupation and its security system, in the context of responding to the crimes of the occupation and the settlers’ incursions into Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
He said that Israel is “paying the price for its crimes and its racist policy against our people, and our people will not tire or get bored until the occupation is swept away. Our people will continue their struggle and defense of Al-Aqsa Mosque by all means and tools, and its strikes will reach the Zionists and the herds of settlers wherever they go and settle down.”
The increase in troop deployment to the West Bank is expected to last until the end of the year in order to allow soldiers to carry out offensive operations to arrest suspects believed to be involved in terror.