Two people were killed in a West Bank shooting attack on Sunday morning.
The two succumbed to their wounds after suffering critical injuries. A third casualty, a 54-year-old woman, is hospitalized in moderate condition.
Israeli security forces said that the suspect is a Palestinian man in his twenties. Police said that the shooter was an employee of the Barkan factory who may have sought revenge against his former workplace after being fired. He entered the factory, near the city of Ariel, and opened fire on employees. The shooter then fled the scene, and a manhunt is still underway.
The Israeli army’s spokesperson Ronen Manelis called the shooting “a serious terror attack.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu extended his condolences to the families of the slain employees and said he was “sure we will bring the terrorist to justice soon” during a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.
“This was not only an attack on innocent people going about their daily lives, it was also an attack on the possibility of Israelis and Palestinians co-existing peacefully,” President Reuven Rivlin said following the attack.
“I call on the Palestinian leadership to condemn this murderous attack and to use the forces at their disposal to capture the terrorist and those who aided him.”
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that “the Israeli military and security forces are carrying out a widespread manhunt to track down the evil terrorist who carried out the terror attack in Barkan. It’s a matter of time until we get our hands on him.”
Employees of the Barkan industrial area have been told to remain indoors while police and army forces are scouting the area.
The suspect still worked in the factory as recently as two weeks ago and the circumstances of his departure from the factory are still unclear, police said.
The shooter entered the factory with a weapon and opened fire on employees, police added. A source familiar with the investigation said that the attacker used a Karl Gustav rifle.
Employees at the factory claim that the assailant had only been working there for four months and that contrary to police reports, he was not fired. The employees said that they didn’t know him because he was relatively new there.
The employees also claimed that the assailant had been absent from work for the past couple of weeks. “He must have planned it in this time,” one employee told Haaretz. “We work here based on trust, I believe in coexistence but someone like this ruins everything you build. Palestinian employees are confused too,” the man added.
Sources in the defense establishment said that there was no alert on an upcoming attack in the area, but noted that the fact that the shooter climbed to the second floor of the factory and fired on people in a specific room strengthens the assessment that it was an attempted revenge.
Sources also said that the nature of the shooting may imply that the shooter acted alone. Nonetheless, security forces are still investigating whether the attacker received his weapon from terror elements.
The Israeli military said its troops, along with the Shin Bet, are currently pursuing the suspect, whose identity is known to security forces.
Police investigators are bringing to the scene suspects who know the area and previously worked in the factory.
The Barkan industrial area, which was established in 1982, is one of 14 industrail areas that Israel set up beyond the Green Line. Barkan is a highly populated area, and only 14 out of the 728 dunams that it has been allocated are empty.
Some 80 percent of the produce of Barkan factories is used for export.
Hamas released a statement about the shooting, saying: “The attack in Barkan is a new chapter in the struggle of the Palestinian people in the West Bank and a message to the young people of the West Bank and Gaza who are under siege.”
The Islamic Jihad organization also issued a statement congratulating the shooter. “The attack in the area of Ariel is a natural response to the crimes of the occupation in Gaza, Jerusalem and Khan al-Ahmar and against those who hurt children. It’s a response who those who oppose the occupation and the continued damage inflicted on Palestinians. [Israel] shouldn’t expect such events to take place with on reaction.”
Yossi Dagan, the head of the Samaria Regional Council, said after the shooting that “this is a difficult incident. An attacker opened fire at one of the largest offices of the Barkan industrial area. This is a very difficult incident at a place that is a bridge of coexistence at the heart of Samaria.”
“There are more than 8,000 employees in this industrial area, half of which are Jewish and half of which are Arab,” Dagan continued.
“I see here Arabs and Jews who are sitting together and crying. We will never break down. The Zionist project in Samaria, as well as everywhere else in the State of Israel, will continue in full force,” he said.
Israeli army chief Gadi Eisenkot has recently warned cabinet ministers of a potential uptick in violent attacks across the West Bank, but according to initial assessments there is no connection between Sunday’s attack and Eisenkot’s warning.
Last month, a 40-year-old Israeli man was killed in a stabbing attack at the entrance to a mall near the West Bank’s Gush Etzion Junction.
The victim was Ari Fuld, a father of four who hailed from the settlement of Efrat.
The incident took place in the Harim Mall, close to the Kfar Etzion settlement. The victim shot the assailant, a 17-year-old Palestinian hailing from the West Bank village of Yatta near Hebron, who was later identified as Khalil Jabarin. The attacker is currently hospitalized in moderate condition.