Israeli security forces arrested two Palestinians early Tuesday morning on suspicion of carrying out a deadly terror attack near Hebron a day earlier, in which a 42-year-old mother of three was killed and a man in his 40s was seriously wounded when their vehicle came under fire from a passing car on the Route 60 highway.
In a joint statement, the Shin Bet security agency, Border Police, and Israel Defense Forces said the two suspects — relatives — were caught in the southern West Bank city of Hebron by members of the police’s elite Yamam counterterrorism unit.
The Shin Bet said the suspects, Hebron residents, “tied themselves” to the shooting attack, which occurred close to the Beit Hagai junction on Monday morning.
Israeli forces also seized an M-16 assault rifle, suspected to have been used in the attack.
The two suspects were named by Palestinian media as Saqer and Mohammed a-Shanter, and were said to be brothers.
Police later published headcam footage showing the arrest.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant expressed his appreciation for the forces involved in the capture.
“The terrorists who brutally murdered Batsheva Nigri will spend the rest of their days in prison. We will employ all means to strengthen our security. We will pursue and find our enemies,” he wrote.
Gallant later ordered the military’s liaison to the Palestinians, known as COGAT, to revoke the entry permits to Israel of dozens of relatives of the two suspected terrorists. There was no immediate comment from COGAT confirming it had carried out the move.
Maj. Gen. Ghassan Alian, head of COGAT, has previously said the policy is intended to dissuade Palestinians from planning terror attacks, as doing so would harm their extended family’s livelihood. Critics have called it collective punishment.
Previously, only immediate family members would have their entry and work permits to Israel revoked, if background checks determined they had ties to terrorists.
Security forces had launched a manhunt for suspects following the attack and closed off a number of roads in the area, questioning Palestinians entering and leaving the city.
The IDF had been given a description of the suspected vehicle used by the gunmen to carry out the terror attack. The vehicle had no license plates and was believed to have fled toward the Hebron area. Security forces later found a burnt-out vehicle near the Palestinian town of Halhul, which apparently matched the description of the terrorists’ car.
In the Monday morning attack, kindergarten teacher Nigri was killed, and Aryeh Leib Gottlieb, a father of six in his 40s, was seriously wounded. Nigri’s 12-year-old daughter was in the vehicle at the time of the attack and emerged unharmed.
The Nigris, residents of the West Bank settlement of Beit Hagai, had hitched a ride with Gottlieb heading toward the Jerusalem area from the southern West Bank.
Gottlieb’s vehicle was hit by at least 22 rounds of a firearm, with another three bullet impacts found nearby, according to the military’s initial investigation.
IDF soldiers at a nearby post heard gunfire but did not immediately identify that an attack had occurred. By the time troops reached the scene, the terrorists had fled, according to the preliminary probe.
Gottlieb was rushed to Beersheba’s Soroka Hospital where he was stabilized after undergoing surgery. He was en route to Jerusalem to buy books for his children, according to Hebrew media reports.
Nigri was initially listed in critical condition, but was pronounced dead at the scene shortly afterward.
She was laid to rest Monday night at the Gush Etzion regional cemetery in Kfar Etzion, where family and friends mourned her as a dedicated mother, wife, and teacher.
“You were all light and a pure heart, you were a true inspiration. I miss you and am crushed,” her sister said in her eulogy of Nigri.
In her eulogy to her mother, Nigri’s daughter, Shirel, recounted the attack: “Today we went out shopping in Jerusalem, and suddenly we heard gunshots. The windows were broken, and you were no longer awake.”
“Mom, I want to give you a hug one last time. I miss you. You were the happiest person I know. I ask that you watch over us and don’t leave me. My children will know what an amazing mother I had,” she said in comments cited by news site Walla.
Nigri’s brother hailed her as an “amazing wife, a wonderful mother, and an aunt like no other.”
Both the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups praised the Monday attack as a response to Israel’s expanding settlement enterprise in the West Bank, but stopped short of claiming responsibility.
The attack came two days after a Palestinian terrorist killed two Israeli men, a father and son, while they were doing errands in the northern West Bank town of Huwara. Shay Silas Nigreker, 60, and his 28-year-old son Aviad Nir were shot to death at a carwash on Saturday afternoon.
Violence has surged across the West Bank over the past year and a half, with a rise in Palestinian shooting attacks against Israeli civilians and troops, near-nightly arrest raids by the military, and an uptick in revenge attacks by extremist Jewish settlers against Palestinians.
The IDF said Monday it was bolstering the West Bank with an additional infantry battalion and two companies, following the two recent deadly terror attacks.
The military said the additional forces would assist in the manhunts for the terrorists who carried out the attack near Hebron on Monday and the shooting in Huwara on Saturday.
Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank have left 29 people dead and several others seriously wounded since the beginning of the year, including in Monday’s shooting.
Speaking from the scene of the shooting attack on Monday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said the ongoing terror wave was being directed by Iran.
Also Monday, the head of the military’s Central Command, Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox, said that Israel was in the middle of a major terror wave “the likes of which we have not seen in a long time,”
“The IDF and security forces are operating daily in every region to foil terror,” Fox told reporters at the military’s Judea Regional Brigade headquarters near Hebron.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report. PJC