On Sunday, Israeli security services arrested two Palestinians suspected of axing three Israelis after a manhunt lasting more than two days, the latest in a series of deadly attacks.
Security services – who previously identified the suspects as Assad Yussef al-Rifai, 19, and Subhi Imad Abu Shukair, 20 – said the two were spotted near a quarry just outside the central town of Elad. , where the ax attack took place on Thursday. .
“We said we were going to catch the terrorists, and so we did,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said ahead of his weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday.
The suspects were hiding in a wooded area near the quarry and did not fight with security forces while the arrest was made, security personnel on site told AFP.
The deadly attack on Elad, populated mainly by ultra-Orthodox Jews, was the sixth in which Israelis have been targeted since March 22.
Witnesses said two attackers leapt from a car swinging axes at passersby, leaving three dead and four injured, before making their escape in the same vehicle.
The manhunt included “intelligence and special forces units” from the police, the Homeland Security Agency and the military, along with helicopters and drones, the security forces said.
Army chief Aviv Kohavi praised the operation, vowing to “strengthen the security … of Israeli civilians”.
Israel identified the three dead as Yonatan Habakuk, 44, and Boaz Gol, 49, both from Elad, as well as Oren Ben Yiftach, 35.
The bloodshed took place as Israel marked the 74th anniversary of its founding, which was previously a tense day in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
For Palestinians, the anniversary of Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948 marks the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” when more than 700,000 fled or were expelled during the war surrounding the creation of Israel.
Elad’s killings followed a tense period in which the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, the Jewish holiday of Passover, and the Christian holiday of Passover overlapped.
Tensions have resulted in violent clashes between Israelis and Palestinians in the Al-Aqsa mosque complex, a hotly contested site in the Israeli-annexed Old City of Jerusalem.
Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas condemned Elad’s attacks, warning that the killing of Israeli “civilians” threatened to fuel a wider circle of violence.
But the Islamist rulers of the Gaza Strip Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another Palestinian armed group, praised the latest violence, calling it a consequence of the riots in Al-Aqsa. No liability claimed.
“This operation demonstrates our people’s anger at the occupation’s attacks on the holy places,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said of the Elad attack. “The assault on the Al-Aqsa mosque cannot go unpunished”.
Hamas last week threatened Israel with rocket attacks and attacks on synagogues if its security forces carry out further raids on the Al-Aqsa mosque complex.
“Anyone with a rifle must have it ready, and anyone who does not have a rifle must prepare their knife or ax,” said Yahya Sinwar, head of Hamas in the Israel-blocked Gaza Strip.
A series of anti-Israel attacks since March 22 have killed 18 people, including an Arab-Israeli police officer and two Ukrainians.
Two of the deadly attacks were carried out in the Tel Aviv area by Palestinians.
A total of 27 Palestinians and three Israeli Arabs died in the same period, including attackers and those killed by Israeli security forces in operations in the West Bank.