Each time there is a terror attack, we pray that it will be the last. And then there is another.
This afternoon, Sunday, two young Jews were murdered in a shooting on the much-travelled Route 60, at a checkpoint near the Arab town of Huwara in Samaria. Huwara is south of Nablus (Shechem).
The victims have been identified as brothers, Hillel Menachem Yaniv, aged 22 (right in picture below, with his family), and Yigal Yaakov Yaniv, 20 (center in front), from the community of Har Bracha, also in Samaria, south of Huwara.
They were doing study in hesder yeshivas (yeshivas that combine religious study with a period of service in the armed forces) and were returning from their home to their places of study – in Kiryat Shmona and Givat Olga – when killed. Hillel had already done his stint in the navy. Yigal – just two weeks short of his 20th birthday – was scheduled to enter his service in the IDF shortly.
Reports are a bit sketchy, as is often the case right after an attack.
One report said that the terrorist exited his car, shot at their passing car, and then got back in his car and fled. Another said the terrorist rammed their car to make them stop and then shot. In the end, it does not matter. Two good young men have lost their lives because of vicious and irrational hatred.
First responders hurried to the scene of the attack, where they found both brothers in critical condition – they had been shot at point blank range. After being rushed to the hospital, they succumbed to their injuries.
We say HY”D, an abbreviation of the Hebrew that means may Hashem avenge their deaths.
Here I share the words of Esti Yaniv, mother of Hillel and Yigal, as she addressed the young people of Har Bracha today via a recording. Time and time again, the mourning families who deal with terror attacks show a strength that takes the breath away. Esti is no exception (emphasis added):
“We have suffered a huge slap in the face from God. We are trying to find the good things and the grace that we were prepared, that we had a family Shabbat, that we had good conversations with the boys yesterday, that we took family photos. God sends us grace…even with this painful blow he sends us grace...
“We have a huge hole in our heart, nothing will ever fill this hole. Not construction, not protests, nothing. Even family celebrations will be just a band-aid, this hole will remain and we will learn to live with it and to live with it in joy and to continue and to draw strength from you and our children…
“There are no words that can console us.”
She called on the youth to learn Torah and to do significant service in the IDF.
The terrorist fled the scene in his car. He will be caught; there is no doubt about this. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has ordered the military to ramp up operations – both operational and intelligence — to locate him. Police are on high alert.
Hopefully he will be caught sooner rather than later. Actually…hopefully he will find himself surrounded by security forces, try to fight his way out, and be shot dead.
There is a context to this attack that merits attention here.
Last Wednesday, there was a major IDF operation in Nablus (Shechem) in an effort to root out major players in the Lions’ Den terror group.
The operation was successful as the three targets, responsible for a number of attacks, were eliminated. In all, 11 were killed and some 100 Palestinian Arabs were wounded.
These numbers generated a major PR uproar with international criticism of Israel. What I wish to emphasize here is that the IDF forces did not randomly shoot at civilians: they were attacked from all sides and responded:
“According to IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, during the raid an inner circle comprising the Israel Police Counter-Terrorism Unit and the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) was formed around the hideout, secured by an outer perimeter of soldiers. The suspects were called on surrender, at which point the joint Israeli security force came under fire from multiple directions, including from the hideout itself, he said.
“…’the force was also under fire from rooftops, motorbikes and vehicles,’ said Hecht, who described the perimeter force as being involved in a very heavy gun battle.”
The IDF put out a recording providing indication of the care taken by the IDF not to hit civilians:
Public Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir was among those who praised the operation:
“I admire the heroes… for eliminating the terrorists in Nablus. Whoever harms Israel, we will reach them wherever they are and strike them with a crushing blow, without compromise.”
But not everyone expressed that sentiment.
Naturally, State Department spokesman Ned Price declared the Biden administration “deeply concerned”: “We are deeply concerned that the impact of today’s raid could set back efforts aimed at restoring calm for both Israelis and Palestinians.”
And naturally, we should not be surprised if that sentiment resonates at some level with our prime minister, who is weighing multiple factors.
It is true that counter-terrorist operations can stir up the hornet’s nest: Marches were held after midnight in Nablus, Hebron, Ramallah, Tulkarm, the Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem, and the Shuafat refugee camp in eastern Jerusalem in support of the Lions’ Den. Early Thursday morning, Palestinian Islamic Jihad fired six rockets from Gaza.
Those on the left embrace the notion that for this reason it’s best not to stir up matters.
But this is a huge mistake: terrorists are not about to relinquish their terror activities if Israel leaves them alone. They will bide their time, hatch their plans, train their people, gather their weapons, and hit when it suits them.
What is more, pulling back signals weakness and emboldens terrorists.
Now it happens that today a summit began in Aqaba, Jordan between Israeli and PA officials, with the blessings of the US.
Israel is represented by National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi (pictured), Shin Bet head Ronen Bar, the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Ghasan Alyan and Foreign Minister Director-General Ronen Levy.
Jordan is seeking “to halt unilateral actions and the security deterioration that could lead to more violence.” The focus, we should not be surprised, is on Israeli settlement activities and IDF raids to rout out terror cells in PA areas.
This rings all sorts of bells, and there is solid reason to fear that there will be an attempt to tie one hand, collectively, behind our backs, as we seek to battle terrorism.
The fact that the beginning of this summit coincided with a horrendous terror attack makes something of a farce of what is being sought in Aqaba.
It is being reported that Netanyahu is agreeing to curtail IDF raids, limiting them to ticking bomb instances only. Whether this is accurate is not yet clear.
It is further being reported that there has been agreement to freeze settlement growth by some months. This is being vigorously denied by Minister Bezalel Smotrich, and Hanegbi says much the same.
All of this must be tracked in days and weeks following.
The right-wing must have the strength now to stand against concessions that are being proposed. National Missions Minister Orit Strock (RZP) is calling on the government to withdraw its delegation from Aqaba in light of today’s attack:
“There is no room for a summit with those who pay the murderers of Jews.”
Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council, says:
“The government must change the paradigm and move from defensive to offensive. It cannot be that in the middle of the day, terrorists allow themselves to shoot innocent civilians.”
Most significant perhaps is this: The Ministerial Committee on Legislation today approved a bill, introduced by MK Limor Son Har-Melech (Otzma Yehudit), that institutes a death penalty for terrorists. It has a long way to go, but this is a major step. It will be discussed in the Security Cabinet and then brought to the Knesset for its first reading.
Ben Gvir issued a joint statement with Netanyahu saying that this is a moral law, and fair. He believes it will pass in the Knesset.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.