Two Palestinians, suspected of having killed three Israelis with an ax on Thursday in the town of Elad in central Israel, were captured on Sunday by Israeli forces after more than 48 hours on the run.

“The two terrorists who murdered three Israeli civilians during the attack in the town of Elad have been arrested,” the police, army and Shin Beth, the internal security service, said in a joint statement.

They were found not far from a quarry, in a wooded area near the town of Elad, located near the metropolis of Tel Aviv.

Sixth attack in two months

After the attack Thursday evening, the police launched a manhunt by distributing the photos and the names of two Palestinians suspected of having committed it: they are Assaad Youssef Al-Rifaï, 19, and Sobhi Imed Abou Choukeir, 20, from the village of Roummaneh in the Jenin region of the West Bank.

"We said we would catch the terrorists and we did," Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.

His Defense Minister Benny Gantz praised, in a message on Twitter, the joint operation of the police, the army and the Shin Beth, during which important forces were deployed and helicopters and drones used .

The attack took place on the day of the celebrations of the 74th anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel.

According to witnesses, the assailants jumped out of a car and started attacking passers-by with axes before fleeing in the vehicle.

Three Israelis were killed and four injured, one of whom is in critical condition, in Elad, where some of the 50,000 residents are ultra-Orthodox Jews.

It was the sixth attack targeting Israelis since March 22, in Israel and the West Bank, Palestinian territory occupied by the Israeli army since 1967.

"Attacks of the Occupation"

After the attack, Israel had extended until Sunday the closure of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to prevent the escape of suspects to these Palestinian territories.

Palestinian President and leader of the secular movement Fatah Mahmoud Abbas, based in the West Bank, condemned "the killing of Israeli civilians" after the attack.

But the Palestinian Islamist movements of Hamas and Islamic Jihad welcomed a "heroic" attack, without however claiming it.

According to them, it was carried out in response to violence in East Jerusalem, the Palestinian sector of the Holy City occupied by Israel since 1967. “The operation (in Elad) bears witness to the anger of our people at the attacks of the occupation against holy sites,” warned Hamas, which controls Gaza, an overpopulated Palestinian enclave that has been under an Israeli blockade for more than 15 years.

“The desecration by occupation forces and Al-Aqsa settler gangs has crossed all red lines,” added Islamic Jihad.

Status quo

In recent weeks, clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians have left some 300 injured mainly on the esplanade of the Mosques in East Jerusalem.

This site, the third place of Islam, houses the Al-Aqsa mosque.

Thursday, after the return of Jewish worshipers to the esplanade, also considered the holiest place in Judaism under its name of Temple Mount, clashes broke out between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli police.

Under an unspoken status quo, non-Muslims can go to the esplanade but not pray there.

A growing number of Jews are going there, and the fact that some of them are surreptitiously praying there is raising fears that the status quo will be challenged among many Muslims, even though Israel has repeatedly wanted to maintain it.

In total, since March 22, 18 people have been killed in anti-Israeli attacks in Israel and the West Bank, carried out by Israeli Arabs and Palestinians.

In the wake of the first attacks, Israeli forces carried out operations in the West Bank, particularly in the Jenin region where the attackers came from.

Twenty-seven Palestinians, including attackers, were killed.

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