TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Israeli police said Sunday forces captured two Palestinians who killed three people in a stabbing attack last week and fled the scene, sparking a massive manhunt and keeping the country on edge.
The two attackers went on a stabbing rampage in the ultra-Orthodox city of Elad on Thursday, Israel’s Independence Day, killing three and wounding at least four others before bolting.
The stabbing was the latest in a series of deadly assaults deep inside the country in recent weeks. It came as Israeli-Palestinian tensions were already heightened by violence at a major holy site in Jerusalem sacred to Jews and Muslims.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told his Cabinet that forces captured “terrorists awash with incitement who killed with axes and unimaginable cruelty.”
He said Israel was entering a “new stage in the war on terror,” and said Israel was establishing a civilian national guard that would be deployed in emergency situations like the kinds of attacks the country has witnessed in recent weeks.
“The Israeli government’s main goal is to restore personal security to Israeli citizens,” he said.
A joint statement by police, the military and the Shin Bet internal security agency said the men, identified as 19- and 20-year-old Palestinians, were caught near a quarry not far from Elad following a search that began Thursday by special forces and commando units using helicopters and other means.
Images in Israeli media showed masked security forces confronting the men, who appeared to be beneath a green shrub in a rugged patch of land.
As forces scoured the area looking for the men, police called on the public to avoid the area, and urged Israelis to report suspicious vehicles or people to them.
Police said the attackers were from the town of Jenin in the occupied West Bank, which has re-emerged as a militant bastion in the latest wave of violence — the worst Israel has seen in years. Several of the attackers in the recent violence have come from Jenin.
At least 18 Israelis have been killed in five attacks since March, including another stabbing rampage in southern Israel, two shootings in the Tel Aviv area, and a shooting last weekend in a West Bank settlement.
Nearly 30 Palestinians have died in violence — most of whom had carried out attacks or were involved in confrontations with Israeli forces in the West Bank. But an unarmed woman and two apparent bystanders were also among those killed and rights groups say Israel often uses excessive force.
The violence has been fueled by tensions at a Jerusalem hilltop compound holy to both Muslims and Jews, where Palestinians have clashed recently with Israeli police.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is the third holiest site in Islam and is built on a hilltop that is the holiest site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount. It lies at the emotional heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.