The shooting took place early Sunday in the Barkan industrial zone, near the large Israeli settlement of Ariel. Thousands of Israelis and Palestinians work side by side at the industrial zone, which includes 160 factories. The Palestinian economy is heavily restricted under Israeli military rule, forcing tens of thousands of Palestinians to seek work in Israel as well as Jewish settlements.
Military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said the preliminary finding was that a 23-year-old man from a nearby village had carried out the attack. Conricus said the suspect was not known to authorities and was not believed to belong to a Palestinian militant group, saying it appeared to be a "lone wolf" attack.
"We know he is still armed and considered dangerous," he added. The Israeli military later named the suspect as Ashraf Na'alwa, a resident of a West Bank village near Tulkarm. Israeli security forces searched Na'alwa's village near the West Bank city of Tulkarem and arrested several Palestinians suspected of assisting the suspect.
Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman denounced the attack and said the perpetrator would be brought to justice. Since 2015, Palestinians have killed over 50 Israelis, two visiting Americans and a British tourist in stabbings, shootings and car-ramming attacks. Israeli forces killed over 260 Palestinians in that period, of which Israel says most were attackers.
Gaza's Hamas rulers and other militant groups praised Sunday's attack, but none claimed responsibility for it. One of the victims was identified as Kim Yehezkel, a 28-year-old mother of an infant son, who worked in the office that was attacked. The second was named as Ziv Hajbi, 35. Another woman in her 50s was seriously wounded. Closed-circuit footage from the scene showed a man holding a handgun and wearing a backpack, fleeing down a flight of stairs and then dashing past stunned onlookers.
Israeli media reported that those killed were found shot to death on their office floor with their hands bound. At his weekly Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said they had been killed "with great cruelty."
"Our security forces are chasing after the despicable murderer," Netanyahu said. "I am sure we will catch him and bring him to justice soon." U.S. Ambassador David Friedman wrote on Twitter that the industrial zone "has been a model of Israeli-Palestinian coexistence since 1982, with thousands working and prospering together. Today a terrorist shattered that harmony by brutally murdering two Israelis at work."
Conricus said the attacker was employed in one of the factories and had a valid working permit. While insisting the attack was an act of terrorism, he acknowledged there were "other factors involved as well," without elaborating.
Moshe Lev-Ran, an export manager at a company whose factory is located next to the scene of the attack, said he doubted the official account. "One of the workers was fired and he didn't like the owner ... Everybody knew him. He went upstairs to the second floor because he knew who he wanted to shoot, and he shot," he said. "That's what I think happened. I don't believe it was one of the Palestinians who just woke up in the morning and took a gun to shoot an Israeli."
"No way in our industrial zone," he said, describing an atmosphere of camaraderie in Barkan. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said: "This was not only an attack on innocent people going about their daily lives, it was also an attack on the possibility of Israelis and Palestinians co-existing peacefully."