Israel says motorist killed in West Bank held US citizenship

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Israeli soldiers search a Palestinian's car after Monday's shooting attack took place on a main highway near the Dead Sea and the West Bank Palestinian town of Jericho, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023. Israeli authorities says the motorist killed by a suspected Palestinian gunman in the occupied West Bank held citizenship in both the United States and Israel. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

JERUSALEM – Israeli authorities said Tuesday that a motorist shot to death by a suspected Palestinian gunman in the occupied West Bank held both American and Israeli citizenship. It was the latest in a bloody string of violent attacks roiling the region.

The government identified the slain man as Elan Ganeles, 27, of West Hartford, Connecticut. A friend told local media he had been visiting Israel for a wedding and driving on a highway near the Dead Sea when he was shot. The attackers remained at large Tuesday.

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Ganeles was the sole fatality of what the army said was a multisite shooting spree a day earlier. The army said the attackers opened fire at an Israeli car near the Palestinian city of Jericho, hitting Ganeles. The assailants, traveling in one vehicle, then drove further and fired again, the army said. The attackers set their own vehicle afire and fled, setting off a manhunt.

The killing occurred a day after two Israelis were killed by a Palestinian gunman in the northern West Bank, triggering a rampage in which Israeli settlers torched dozens of cars and homes in the Palestinian town of Hawara and one Palestinian was killed. It was the worst such violence in decades.

The U.N. Security Council held an emergency closed-door meeting Tuesday called by the United Arab Emirates on the surge in violence. UAE Ambassador Lana Nuseibeh told reporters afterward that “council members all spoke with one voice in the room, urging de-escalation, urging no further unilateral actions to be taken, urging the protection of civilians.”

Malta’s U.N. Ambassador Vanessa Frazier, the current council president, said council members agreed they should try “to see if there are ways that we can stop any incitement to further violence and to promote dialogue.”

Palestinian U.N. ambassador Riyad Mansour urged the council to take steps to protect Palestinian civilians, “especially after the criminal and terrorist act by settlers in Hawara.” He said the situation has gotten very bad because of “the most extreme government in the history of Israel.”

In the latest incident, Hadassah Medical Center, where Ganeles was taken, confirmed his death. He is to be buried Wednesday in the Israeli central city of Raanana. Israeli President Isaac Herzog extended condolences to Ganeles’ family.

Ganeles grew up in West Hartford, the son of doctors Andrew and Carolyn Ganeles. He served in the Israel Defense Forces from 2016 to 2018, then returned to the U.S. to attend Columbia University, graduating last year with a bachelor’s degree in sustainable development and neuroscience, according to his LinkedIn page.

Friends and Jewish organizations took to social media to express their grief and remember Ganeles.

“I can’t comprehend that you were killed in an act of terror. You were the kindest, sweetest, most caring friend,” Stanley Block, a fellow Connecticut native who lives in Israel, wrote in a Facebook posting. “There are no words to describe the unique friendship you created with every person you met. You found only the good in everyone and everything.”

Relatives, friends and Rabbi Tuvia Brander of the Ganeles family's synagogue, Young Israel of West Hartford, said Tuesday that they were traveling to Israel to attend Ganeles' funeral. Young Israel said the family was expected to return to West Hartford to begin sitting shiva on Thursday.

The Jewish Federations of North America said it was devastated. “A recent college graduate, Elan had a bright future ahead of him. Our hearts go out to his family and to the West Hartford community and we cry together with them. May Elan’s memory be for a blessing,” it said in a statement.

David Waren, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, said: “We extend our deepest condolences to the Ganeles family and affirm our solidarity with the people of Israel at this time of escalating violence. May Elan’s memory be a blessing for his family and our entire community."

Columbia/Barnard Hillel said Ganeles was active in the Jewish group while attending the university, taking part in a leadership fellowship, a weekly night learning program and Shabbat dinners.

“We will miss his wry humor and thoughtful manner of discussing challenging or controversial topics,” the group said in a statement.

So far this year, 62 Palestinians, about half of them affiliated with armed groups, have been killed by Israeli troops and civilians. In the same period, 14 Israelis, all but one of them civilians, have been killed in Palestinian attacks.

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