JERUSALEM — Israeli security forces on Sunday captured two Palestinians suspected of committing an ax attack that killed three Israeli Jews in the central city of Elad on Thursday evening. The arrests put an end to an intensive search and calmed fears that the attackers might come out of hiding and attack again.
The two suspects were captured alive and unarmed while hiding in bushes in the forest, authorities said, not far from Elad, a predominantly ultra-Orthodox town. Israeli police, military and Shin Bet’s internal security service announced and released the arrest on Sunday morning photos and video from the time of the men’s arrest.
The attack in Elad on Thursday was the fifth terrorist attack in Israel since late March.
Police released the names and photos of two suspects Thursday evening, identifying them as Asad Al Refai, 19, and Subhi Abu Shakir, 20, both residents of the Palestinian village of Romana in the northern Jenin district of the occupied West Bank.
Tensions have risen in recent weeks over clashes during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police at Al Aqsa Mosque, a holy site in Jerusalem also venerated by Jews as the Temple Mount.
Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls Gaza, has urged Palestinians and Arab citizens of Israel to attack Israelis. Days before the attack in Elad, Yehya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, warned that any further raids by Israeli police at the mosque complex would trigger a response. In a fiery speech, he urged members of Israel’s Arab minority to “get your cleavers, axes or knives ready.”
A total of 19 people have been killed in Arab attacks since March 20.
Israel has responded with a series of raids on the occupied West Bank and, according to local news reports, nearly 30 Palestinians have been killed, most of them involved in attacks or clashes with Israeli forces.
Israeli officials said one of the victims of Thursday’s ax attack in Elad, Oren Ben-Yiftah, 35, a delivery man, had given the attackers a lift from the Israel-West Bank border to the city. Mr. Ben-Yiftah, a father of six from Lod, Israel, apparently believed the couple would go to work in Elad.
After arriving in Elad, the attackers killed Mr Ben-Yiftah in his car and then ran into a park to continue their frenzy, terrorizing families celebrating Israel’s Independence Day. There they killed Boaz Gol, 49, and Yonatan Havakuk, 44, residents of Elad, who each had five children, and injured several other men.
Myra Noveck contributed reporting from Jerusalem.