One of the terrorists had regularly bought breakfast at a local bakery for at least the past six months, said the store owner.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
The two Palestinians suspected of carrying out the terrorist attack in Elad Thursday night, killing three and seriously injuring four others, were familiar with the area as they had worked there before – illegally.
Hebrew media reported that Oren Ben Yiftach, the Lod resident who was their first victim, worked as a driver and had transported As’ad al-Rafai, 19, and Sabhi Abu Shakir, 20, at least 10 times to Elad to work. The two terrorists told him Thursday evening that they had a job renovating a synagogue, and when they arrived in the city, they murdered him in his car with axes and knives.
They then went on to kill Yonatan Habakuk and Boaz Gol on their way to a park full of residents still celebrating at the end of Israeli Independence Day. They struck four others; two were critically wounded.
The condition of the two most seriously injured have since been upgraded and their lives are no longer in danger.
A bakery owner, Naor Twito, recognized al-Rafai after police, on a manhunt, publicized pictures of the two. He told Ynet that for the last six months, the young Arab would be one of his first customers in the morning.
“He would say ‘Good morning’ and buy borekas,” he said. “Suddenly he turns on us. There’s no trusting people. I’m in shock, seeing the guy in the picture the police have publicized. He’d start his work day in my bakery at 6 a.m., together with about 10 other Arab youth from the Jenin area” who came into the city together.
“I’m not letting them in anymore,” he added. “I was the only one in the store with them each morning.”
Ben Yiftach’s family leaped to defend him after the news of his unwitting role in the attack garnered condemnation on social media.
They wrote on Facebook that it was “despicable” to link their “beloved son to the horrible attack” when he was its first victim. “Oren was an honest and innocent shuttle driver who worked for a living. Just as a taxi driver does not check who gets in the taxi, so too, he is not required to check work permits…in contrast to a contractor who employs [such] workers.”
The terrorists had no permission to be in Israel, making them two among an estimated 30,000 Palestinians who manage to cross illegally from Judea and Samaria through a security barrier that has proven to be porous in many places.
In wake of the attack, the police announced a country-wide operation to arrest illegal Palestinian residents and anyone who employs, accommodates or drives them. Some 6,600 such illegals have been arrested by the Border Police since January, and almost a thousand have been caught helping or employing them.
Elad city councillor Yaniv Bedlov told Army Radio Friday that specifically in his city’s case, he had sent a letter to the mayor and police immediately after the terrorist attack in Bnei Brak a month ago, asking that security be tightened in their city.
“I suggest to His Honor that he take on the responsibility as he knows how to do, and instruct that guards be placed at the entrance to the city,” he wrote.
Unfortunately, his request was ignored.
“There are only two entrances,” he explained on the radio, meaning that it would not be hard to check suspicious people entering or leaving. “But the checkpoints were unmanned and the fence fell.”