After a 20-hour manhunt, counterterrorism forces arrested two Palestinians allegedly behind a deadly terrorist attack at the entrance to the West Bank settlement of Ariel late Friday night, officials said.
The two alleged gunmen were arrested on Saturday evening in the nearby town of Qarawat Bani Hassan.
Both of the weapons used in the attack were also seized during the arrest, the Shin Bet security agency said.
The pair, who were arrested at home and reportedly surrendered without a struggle, were taken for further questioning.
The arrest operation was conducted by the police Yamam unit, Israel Defense Forces troops and Shin Bet officers.
Palestinian media named the two as Sameeh Assi and Yahya Marei, both in their 20s.
—Newpress | نيو برس (@NewpressPs) April 30, 2022
In the attack on Friday night, the 23-year-old security guard — who was named Saturday evening as Vyacheslav Golev — used his body to shield his fiancee and saved her life.
Golev, a 23-year-old former student at Ariel University is survived by his parents and seven siblings in Beit Shemesh, and his fiancee who was also stationed at the guard post but not wounded in the attack.
Footage showed a blue Suzuki vehicle driving up to a guard post, where a gunman in the passenger seat opened fire. The gunman and the driver then both got out and both fired into the guard post before driving off.
The security guard was shot and medics from the Magen David Adom ambulance service declared him dead at the scene.
The gunmen apparently used improvised Carlo submachine guns, according to an image published by police on Saturday.
Security forces blocked off roads as large numbers of police officers and soldiers launched a massive manhunt for the gunmen. The IDF said special forces participated in the search.
Earlier Saturday, Palestinian media reports said that a burnt vehicle had been found in an open area west of Ariel, and that it could be the car used by the terrorists. The car was later reportedly seized by Israeli troops.
The attack was claimed by the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, a coalition of armed groups affiliated with the Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah party.
“We take responsibility for the heroic operation in Ariel that resulted in the death of a Zionist officer. All this activity is a response to the Israeli aggression in Jerusalem,” a masked man said in a video circulated on social media.
The terror group was also behind the deadly attack in Bnei Brak last month.
The Hamas terror group praised the shooting, saying it was a “heroic operation” and a “natural response to the crimes of the occupation and its settlers.”
The Gaza-based terror group said it would not be the last attack.
תמונת רכב המחבלים המופצת במצוד. סוזוקי כחולה. שני מחבלים. כנראה חמושים ברובה קרלו. לוחית זיהוי צהובה. pic.twitter.com/FjxMcgqaZ5
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Ariel, a city with over 20,000 residents, and other settlements in the area issued a lockdown order over fears the gunmen might attack again shortly after the attack.
On Saturday, authorities placed concrete barriers next to the guard post where the attack took place. The barriers are to protect the security guards while they operate outside of the guard post itself.
As Shabbat ended Saturday evening, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett issued his first response to the attack, expressing condolences to the family of the security guard and highlighting how he protected his girlfriend.
“There is no terrorist we won’t reach and settle the score with,” the premier said. “Our war against terror is long.”
Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid also praised Israeli security forces for the arrests.
“The State of Israel always defeats terror and will do whatever is needed… to defeat it now as well,” Gantz said.
The attack came as tensions have risen sharply between Israel and the Palestinians in recent weeks against the backdrop of repeated terror attacks in Israeli cities that left 14 dead.
The escalation has come amid the Muslim holy month of Ramadan — often a period of high tension in Israel and the West Bank.
The army has stepped up its West Bank activities in an attempt to crack down on the spiraling violence. The ensuing raids sparked clashes that left at least 25 Palestinians dead, many of whom took part in the clashes, while others appeared to have been uninvolved civilians.