Three Israelis were killed and three were hurt in a stabbing and car-ramming attack in and around the West Bank settlement of Ariel on Tuesday morning, the military and medics said.
According to the Israel Defense Forces, a Palestinian terrorist stabbed a security guard near the entrance to the Ariel Industrial Park. The terrorist then stabbed three people at and adjacent to a nearby gas station, before he fled in an apparently stolen vehicle.
Shortly afterwards, the terrorist crashed the vehicle into other cars on the Route 5 highway, before getting out and stabbing another person, according to medics. He then stole another vehicle and drove it against traffic, crashing into more cars, before he got out and was shot dead by soldiers and armed civilians.
Odelia Shahaf, a Magen David Adom ambulance service medic who was at the scene, said she thought it was a traffic accident.
“I was on the road and noticed what looked like a car accident. I saw a wounded man lying on the road and immediately went over to him,” she said.
“While I started treating him I heard people shouting ‘terrorist terrorist’ and saw a man running with a knife running in our direction,” Shahaf said.
“He then managed to stab and injure a 35-year-old man. I went over to the wounded man who was badly stabbed and stopped his bleeding,” she said. The terrorist at that point got into another vehicle and again crashed into the cars on the highway, she said.
MDA said the 36-year-old security guard was seriously hurt. Security officials were probing how the terrorist managed to flee after stabbing the guard at the first scene, and why they were not shot by another guard. The second guard only fired into the air.
Two men in their 40s who were stabbed at and near the gas station were killed, and another man in his 40s was seriously hurt. A man in his 50s, later named as Tamir Avi-hai, was killed after being rammed by the terrorist, and another 35-year-old was stabbed and seriously hurt on Route 5, according to MDA.
The Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva said it was treating three victims in serious condition, one of whom was unstable. It later said the condition of one of the victims had improved.
The terrorist was named by the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry as 18-year-old Muhammed Souf, from the nearby town of Hares.
Local officials said the terrorist had worked in the industrial zone, and had a valid permit. Souf did not have any prior security offenses, a defense source told The Times of Israel.
According to Palestinian media reports, Israeli troops entered Hares following the attack. The military said troops were dispatched to the scene and were searching the area for a suspect who allegedly aided the terrorist.
A person initially reported by medics to have been a second attacker was one of the victims.
The attack came amid an Israeli anti-terror offensive mostly focused on the northern West Bank to deal with a series of Palestinian attacks that have left 26 people in Israel and the West Bank dead since the beginning of the year.
The operation has netted more than 2,000 arrests in near-nightly raids, but has also left over 130 Palestinians dead, many of them — but not all — while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces.