Elan Ganeles, 27, was shot dead on Monday evening in what Israel’s Magen David Adom (MDA) emergency service described as a “terror attack” on a highway between Jericho and the Dead Sea.
The attack took place on Route 90, north of the Beit Ha’Arava Junction, the MDA said. The location is normally peaceful and on one of the main routes for Israelis to visit the Dead Sea.
Ganeles was visiting Israel for a friend’s wedding and lived in the United States, friends of his told CNN on Tuesday. His synagogue in Connecticut said he would be buried in Israel on Wednesday.
Steve Charter, the manager of a Hebrew language program Ganeles attended, told CNN on Tuesday that Ganeles was “a really nice guy, a gentleman … the type of guy you want your daughter to date.” Charter said Ganeles attended the five-month course at Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu in 2015 before joining the Israeli army.
After he completed his army service, he returned to the United States to study at Columbia University, Charter said.
“He wanted to celebrate his friend’s wedding, see his friends and go back to America,” added Michael Landau, a friend of Ganeles from the Hebrew program. “He was on his way to see a friend when he got murdered.”
Landau said Ganeles was aware of the security situation in Israel and the West Bank but did not appear to be worried about it. “He lived here in the past so he understands the situation,” Landau said. “He never expressed any concern about the fact that something was going on.”
The US State Department confirmed an Israeli-American citizen had been killed, and said it was “extremely concerned by the events of this weekend and the continuing violence in Israel and the West Bank.”
Ganeles’s death came after a mob of Israeli settlers went on a rampage Sunday in Huwara, south of Nablus in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, killing one Palestinian, beating others with metal bars, and stoning a Palestinian fire engine after burning several homes.
Those attacks followed the fatal shooting of two Israeli brothers earlier on Sunday in Huwara, days after a massive Israeli military raid into Nablus in search of wanted militants left at least 11 Palestinians dead.
State Department spokesman Ned Price on Monday reiterated the US’ condemnation of the killings of Israelis over the weekend and the violence by settlers against Palestinians.
“We appreciate Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu and President [Isaac] Herzog’s statements calling for a cessation of vigilante violence. We expect the Israeli government to ensure full accountability and legal prosecution of those responsible for these attacks, in addition to compensation for the lost homes and property,” Price said. “These events underscore the fragility of the situation in the West Bank and the urgent need for increased cooperation to prevent further violence.”
An Israel Defense Forces official condemned Sunday’s attacks by Israeli settlers as acts of “revenge” and “terror,” and said the IDF was sending three additional battalions to the area to try to deescalate the situation.