Israel conducted a large-scale manhunt on Friday for two Palestinians suspected of killing three Israelis in an axe attack that came as the Jewish state marked its founding. The attack on Thursday night in Elad, a central city mainly populated by 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 attack followed a tense period in which the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, the Jewish festival of Passover and the Christian holiday of Easter overlapped. The tensions have boiled over into violent clashes between Israelis and Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, a highly contested site in Jerusalem’s Israeli-annexed Old City. Palestinians have been angered by an uptick in Jewish visits to the Al-Aqsa compound, where by long-standing convention Jews may visit but are not allowed to pray. Israel has said the status quo would remain unchanged at the site known to Jews as the Temple Mount. The Elad attack was condemned by the United States and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, who warned it could lead to spiralling violence. But the Gaza Strip’s Islamist rulers Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another Palestinian armed group, praised the attack, calling it 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 attack. “The storming of the Al-Aqsa mosque cannot go unpunished.” Israeli security forces have mounted a massive search operation for the attackers, identified by the police as Assad Yussef al-Rifai, 19, and Subhi Imad Abu Shukair, 20.