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Two Palestinian axe murder suspects arrested

ELAD: Police arrested on Sunday two Palestinians suspected of axing to death three Israelis after a more than two-day manhunt, the latest in a spate of deadly attacks.

Police-whopreviouslyidentified the suspects as Assad Yussef al Rifai, 19, and Subhi Imad Abu Shukalr, 20 said the pair were spotted near a quarry just outside the central town of Elad, where the axe attacl( took place on Thursday.

`We said we would get the terrorists, and so we did,` Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said before a cabinet meeting.

The suspects had been hiding in a forested area, near the quarry, and did not fight security forces as the arrest was carried out.

The deadly attack in Elad, populated by mainly ultra-Orthodox Jews, was the sixth in which Israelis have been targeted since March 22.

Witnesses said two assailants leapt from a car swinging axes at passers-by, leaving three dead and four wounded, before fleeing in the same vehicle.

The manhunt included `intelligence and special forces units` from police, a domestic security agencyand the army, along with helicopters and drones, the security forces said.

Army chief Aviv Kohavi praised the operation, vowing `to strengthen the security... of Israeli civilians`.

Israel has identified the three dead as Yonatan Habakuk, 44, and Boaz Gol, 49, both from Elad, as well as Oren Ben Yiftach, 35.

The bloodshed unfolded as Israel marl(ed the 74th anniversary of its founding, which has previously been a tense day in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

For Palestinians, the anniversary of Israel`s 1948 creation marks the Nakba, or `catastrophe`, when more than 700,000 fled or were expelled.

Hamas threats The Elad killings followed a tense period in which R amazan, the Jewish festival of Passover and the Christian holiday of Easter overlapped.

Tensions have boiled over into violent clashes between Israelis and Palestinians at Al Aqsa mosque compound, a highly contested site in Jerusalem`s Israeli-annexed old quarter. Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas had condemned the Elad attacks, warning that the mur-der of Israeli `civilians` risked fuelling a broader cycle of violence.

But the Gaza Strip`s Islamist rulers Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another Palestinian armed group, praised the latest violence,callingit a consequence of unrest at Al Aqsa. Neither claimed responsibility.

`This operation demonstrates our people`s anger at the occupation`s attacks on holy sites,` Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said of the Elad attacl(. `The storming of the Al Aqsa mosque cannot go unpunished.

Hamas last week threatened Israel with rocket fire and attacks on synagogues if its security forces carry out further raids on Al Aqsa mosque compound.

`Whoever has a rifle must have it ready, and whoever does not have a rifle must prepare their knife or their axe,` said Yahya Sinwar, Hamas chief in the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip.

A string of anti-Israeli attacks since March 22 have killed 18 people, including an Arab-Israeli police officer and two Ukrainians.

Two of the deadly attacl(s were carried out near Tel Aviv by Palestinians.-AFP