The shooting attack came exactly three weeks after Israeli brothers Yagel and Hallel Yaniv were murdered at the same Palestinian village of Huwara.
By Jonathan Hessen and Erin Viner
At least 20 bullets fired by the Arab gunman with and improvised Carlo submachine gun at point blank range riddled a vehicle driven by 41-year-old David Stern and his wife near the Einabus Junction.
Despite being shot in the head, the former US Marine and weapons instructor managed to return fire and injure the terrorist, who fled the scene.
The couple, who immigrated to Israel from the United States and now live in the Jewish community of Itamar, were rushed by ambulance to a nearby hospital. Stern was in moderate but stable condition, while his wife was treated for shock.
Israelis are forced to drive through the flashpoint Palestinian town of Huwara every day on Highway 60, which is one of the few roads that runs north to south in the West Bank. Due to congested circumstances, travelers are at risk of attacks while sitting in backed up traffic.
A bypass road was only approved after relatives of terror victims held a hunger strike in front of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence in 2017. Despite a subsequent government approval of a budget, construction only began in February 2021 and is not expected to be completed until early next year.
The Israeli leader stated that he was praying for the health of the wounded civilians and expressed support for the security forces operating in the area.
“Our forces are active around the clock in order to settle accounts with the terrorists and thwart terrorist infrastructure. Dozens of terrorists have been eliminated in the past month; many others have been arrested. I reiterate: Whoever tries to harm Israeli citizens will pay the price. We will find the terrorists and their leaders everywhere,” he said.
Just 25 minutes after the crime, the IDF Samaria Brigade tracked and apprehended the seriously-wounded terrorist in a nearby deserted structure. He was identified as identified as 28-year-old Laith Nadim Nassar, a resident of the village of Madama, southwest of Nablus.
Samaria Regional Council Head Yossi Dagan demanded the government take greater action to prevent Palestinian terror attacks, while hailing Stern as “a true Jewish hero of Israel” who “protected his wife with his own body.”
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir released a statement wishing “a complete recovery for the hero who reacted quickly and calmly and saved his own life, his wife’s life and the lives of other Jews who could have been harmed by the shooting.” He went on to repeat his call to pass new legislation to impose the death penalty on terrorists.
Soon after yesterday’s attack, the defense establishment reinforced units in the vicinity to prevent riots that erupted after the 26 February murders of IDF Staff Sergeant Hillel Menahim Yaniv and his brother Yagel Yaakov Yaniv. Similarly to the Sterns, the two brothers were sitting in traffic when shot at point blank range. Their killer died in a gun-battle during a joint arrest raid by IDF, Israel Security Agency (ISA, Shin Bet) Border Police and its Yamam Counter-terrorism Units.
The same evening as the Yaniv murders, hundreds of Jewish extremists went on a rampage in Huwara and neighboring Arab villages chanting, “Revenge.” IDF and Border Police forces were deployed to disperse the rioters, who had set fire to dozens of vehicles, commercial and private properties. One Palestinian in the town of Za’tara, south of Huwara died of gunshot wounds, but the IDF said troops were not involved in the shooting.
As opposed to Israel that took action to prevent further violence, Palestinians hailed the latest attack.
As has become routine when Israelis are targeted by terrorists, residents throughout Palestinian areas of the West Bank celebrated with cheers and the distribution of candy in the streets.
Spokesman of the Islamist Hamas rulers of Gaza, Hazem Qassem, welcomed the attack as a “natural response to the crimes of the occupation against the Palestinian people.” He went on to boast that, “the resistance in the West Bank is getting stronger, more present and more rooted, and all security forces cannot stop it or bypass it.”
Also welcoming the shooting, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror group claimed it was carried out as “a natural response to the crimes of the occupation in Damascus.” According to a statement issued by the Iranian-proxy’s Al-Quds Brigades miltary wing, Israeli “agents” assassinated Ali Ramzi al-Aswad, who was identified by Lebanon’s Hezbollah-linked Al-Mayadeen network as one of the PIJ’s most prominent engineers responsible for development of rockets fired at Israel.
In other weekend violence, Palestinian terrorists in Gaza fired a rocket at southern Israeli communities. The projectile exploded in an uninhabited area, failing to cause any injuries or property damage.
On Friday, a knife-wielding Palestinian was shot and killed by IDF troops near the Beitin Junction in the Benjamin Regional sector. Several drive-by shootings at IDF posts- including the Qalandia crossing outside Jerusalem – were reported. Soldiers responded with live fire, and no injuries were reported.
The West Bank has seen a surge of confrontations, with near-daily military raids and escalating violence amid a surge of Palestinian terror attacks.
At the same time the Sterns were targeted by terrorists yesterday, Israeli and Palestinian Authority (PA) officials held US-backed talks in Egypt aimed at calming months of bloodshed – particularly in the lead up to the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, set to begin on 22 March.
Sources familiar with details of the talks at Sharm el-Sheikh confirmed to TV7 that “the meeting was held in a positive atmosphere” and that “progress has been achieved,” without providing additional information.
The latest bid to de-escalate tensions follow similar attempts last month in Aqaba, Jordan last month – that took place the same day as the murders of the Yaniv brothers.
Hamas, which is opposed to Israel’s existence, blasted the PA – run by its bitter Fatah rival.
“There is a national refusal to hold the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit and there is a condemnation for participation of the (Palestinian) Authority in this meeting with the Zionist occupation. This meeting encourages the occupation to increase its aggression against the Palestinians people and continue their crimes. It seems that the (Palestinian) authority insists to tweet different from the national tune. What is needed indeed is international and regional summits to support our Palestinian people against this racist; fascist and Zionist government,” declared Hamas Spokesperson Qassem.