The Biden administration on Tuesday called on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to take steps to calm tensions in Judea and Samaria, just hours after a Palestinian terrorist killed three Israelis in a stabbing and car-ramming rampage in and around the city of Ariel.
“The United States is deeply concerned by the increased violence in the West Bank,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. “We convey profound condolences to the families and loved ones of the Israeli and Palestinian civilians, including children, who have been killed in the past 48 hours,” he added.
“We strongly condemn [Tuesday’s] terrorist attack, which killed three Israelis and wounded three others. The recent period has seen a sharp and alarming increase in Palestinian and Israeli deaths and injuries, including numerous children. It is vital that the parties take urgent action to prevent further loss of life,” said Price.
On Tuesday, Muhammed Souf, 18, stabbed one person at the entrance to the Ariel Industrial Park and two others at an adjacent gas station, before fleeing the scene in a stolen vehicle, which he subsequently slammed into several cars on Route 5. He then exited the car and stabbed another person, before stealing a second vehicle and driving it against traffic.
The slain Israelis were Michael Ladygin, 36, a father of two, and Mordechai Ashkenazi, 59, a father of three and grandfather of two, who were stabbed at the gas station, and Tamir Avihai, 50, a father of six, whom the terrorist drove into.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid released a statement following the attack, stating, “The citizens of Israel awakened today to a difficult and painful morning. A despicable terrorist has carried out a heinous terrorist attack in Ariel. On behalf of the Government and State of Israel, I send my condolences to the families of those murdered and my wishes for a speedy recovery to the wounded.
“We are relentlessly fighting terrorism with the full might of…the security forces,” the statement continued, adding, “Recently, we have succeeded in dismantling extensive terrorist infrastructure and planning, but we must fight this war every day anew. Our security forces are working around the clock to protect the citizens of Israel and target terrorist infrastructure anytime, anywhere.”
Since March, the Israel Defense Forces has since March been engaged in a counter-terrorism campaign, dubbed “Operation Break the Wave,” in Judea and Samaria in a bid to quell a major uptick in Palestinian attacks.
Price’s comments on Tuesday also come on the backdrop of the revelation that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has launched an investigation into the death in Jenin in May of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen abu Akleh.
Both Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz have said that Israel will not cooperate with the FBI probe, or any external investigation into the killing of Abu Akleh.
“The IDF is a moral and ethical army. IDF soldiers and their commanders defend the State of Israel. The IDF thoroughly investigates any irregular event and is committed to the values and laws of democracy,” said Lapid in a statement issued on Tuesday.
“Our soldiers will not be investigated by the FBI or by any other foreign country or entity, however friendly it may be. We will not abandon our soldiers to foreign investigations. We have conveyed our strong protest to the United States,” the statement continued.
Gantz called the Justice Ministry’s decision to launch the investigation a “serious mistake.”