A former U.S. Army Officer and current Vanderbilt University student has died after being stabbed in Israel on the evening of March 8. Taylor Force was the victim of a stabbing attack perpetrated by a Palestinian man from the West Bank, according to police spokeswoman Luba Samri. In total, eleven people were attacked during the incident, including Force’s wife who is in critical condition.
You can see graphic footage of the attack above.
The incident occurred at the port city of Jaffa, a popular tourist beachfront near Tel Aviv. He was 29 years old. Force was rushed to Wolfson Medical Center in Holon where he was pronounced dead. His identity was confirmed in a statement from his school, Vanderbilt University.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. He Was a Field Artillery Officer in the United States Army; Serving in Iraq & Afghanistan
According to his profile at Poets and Quants, Force was studying at the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University. He was part of the class of 2017.
In his bio, it says he was a native of Lubbock, Texas, and graduated from the United States Military Academy, with a degree in Engineering Management. Since then, he had worked a Field Artillery officer in the United States Army. When asked what he would like to achieve post-graduation, Force said:
In addition to learning the skills needed to be successful in business, I want to establish life-long connections and friendships with my fellow students from the U.S. and around the globe.
The statement announcing Force’s death from Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos read in part:
Taylor embarked on this trip to expand his understanding of global entrepreneurship and also to share his insights and knowledge with start-ups in Israel. He exemplified the spirit of discovery, learning and service that is the hallmark of our wonderful Owen community.
This horrific act of violence has robbed our Vanderbilt family of a young hopeful life and all of the bright promise that he held for bettering our greater world.
Taylor’s family and his friends and colleagues have our deepest sympathy and utmost support.
The remarks also said that no other Vanderbilt students or staff were injured in the attack.
A brief piece from the Lubbock Avalanche Journal from 2005 mentions that Taylor Allen Force, son of Stuart Force, had entered West Point, where he was on the ski team, having “graduated from the New Mexico Military Institute, Roswell, N.M.” When contacted by the New York Times, Stuart Force simply said, “We have just been notified, and we have no details about anything.”
According to his LinkedIn page, Force left the service in August 2014 having served in both Iraq in Operation New Dawn and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. He was also an Eagle scout.
2. Vice President Joe Biden, Who Was in Jaffa at the Time, Is Beefing Up His Security After the Attack
CBS New York reports that Vice President Joe Biden is in Israel as part of a visit to the Middle East. He arrived in Israel on March 8, the day of the attack.
Breitbart reports that in response to the attack, Biden’s team have increased their security presence. The VP was speaking at an event at the Peres Peace Center. The conservative news network notes that “there is no immediate information to indicate that the stabber timed his attack to coincide with Biden’s visit.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres said at the meeting with Biden, “In these moments, terror attacks are taking place in streets adjacent to us,” reports CNN.
The stabbing attack happened on a day when four Palestinians were killed by the Israeli Defense Forces across the country. The attacks are not related, according to Israel’s Police Chief. In total, 12 Israelis were hurt on March 8, including two cops. During one of the attacks, an elderly orthodox Jewish man stabbed his would-be attacker dead with the terrorist’s knife, reports the BBC.
This comes after five months of prolonged attacks from Palestinians. Those attacks have been focused on both civilian and military targets.
CNN reported that earlier on March 8, Israeli forces shot and killed a “female terrorist” after an attempted stabbing in Jerusalem’s Old City.
3. Force’s Attacker Was Neutralized
The Times of Israel reports that eleven people were stabbed in Jaffa, not including Force. The newspaper refers to the attacker as being “neutralized.” CNN reports that four people were stabbed close to the Jaffa port and then three more were attacked as the attacker moved north up the boardwalk.
The Jerusalem Post reports that he was a 22-year-old from the village of Kalandiya in the West Bank named Bashar Massalha (Above). CBS reports that it does not appear that he was attached to any terror group. Though in a tweet, Hamas claimed him as a member:
4. A Pregnant Woman & a Russian Tourist Were Among the Other’s Stabbed in Jaffa
The Jerusalem Post reports that a Russian tourist and a pregnant woman were among the others stabbed in Jaffa. The newspaper says that the four of the victims are in serious condition, another four in moderate condition while two others only suffered light injuries. Both the Russian citizen and pregnant woman are among those in serious condition.
5. He’s the First American to Be Killed in Israel Since Teenager Ezra Schwartz Was Shot Dead in November 2015
Force is the first American to be killed in Israel since Ezra Schwartz was shot dead in the country while delivering food packages to soldiers. The suspect in the attack was a Palestinian terrorist who was arrested by members of the IDF. Six other American students suffered minor injuries in the attack. The attack happened near the Gush Etzion region in Israel on the afternoon of November 19.
He was a Yeshiva student from Massachusetts. It followed an earlier stabbing attack in the city of Tel Aviv which saw two Israelis killed by a Palestinian man inside an office building. Schwartz was 18 years old.