2 Bedouin Israelis suspected of killing soldier in terror attack
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2 Bedouin Israelis suspected of killing soldier in terror attack

Shin Bet says alleged assailants acted out of 'nationalistic motives' in stabbing Sgt. Ron Kokia in Arad; victim's stolen gun retrieved

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Hundreds attend the funeral of 19-year old Israeli soldier Ron Kokia in the Kiryat Shaul military cemetery on December 3, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Hundreds attend the funeral of 19-year old Israeli soldier Ron Kokia in the Kiryat Shaul military cemetery on December 3, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Two Bedouin Israelis were arrested on Friday on suspicion that they had stabbed a soldier to death in southern Israel last week, the Shin Bet security service announced on Monday.

On Thursday night, Sgt. Ron Kokia was stabbed to death at a bus stop in the city of Arad in what the Shin Bet said was a terror attack.

The assailants stole the soldier’s gun and fled the scene, prompting a widespread manhunt across southern Israel.

Ron Yitzhak Kokia, an IDF soldier stabbed to death in an apparent terror attack on November 30, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)

Two suspects from southern Israel were arrested a day later, but the information was not immediately cleared for publication. On Monday, that gag order was partially removed.

According to the Shin Bet, one of the suspects admitted during an interrogation to murdering Kokia.

“He even led Shin Bet investigators to retrieve the soldier’s gun,” the service said in a statement.

Police units respond to an apparent terror attack in the southern city of Arad on November 30, 2017. (Israel Police)

Beyond saying that the stabbing had a “nationalistic motive,” the Shin Bet would not comment on a specific trigger for the attack. Suspects often cite a recent event or incident involving a family member or friend when confessing to a terror charge.

“The interrogation of the suspects is ongoing,” the Shin Bet said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised security forces’ quick work in “catching the despicable terrorists who murdered Ron Kokia.”

Netanyahu vowed to bring all those who “seek to harm our citizens” to justice.

Hundreds of people on Sunday came to Tel Aviv’s Kiryat Shaul military cemetery to pay last respects as Kokia was laid to rest.

“Go on your way, my son,” Kokia’s mother, Levana, said in front of some 500 friends and family. “Angels will welcome you, and floral tapestries will be laid before you. Go on your way into the arms of God.”

Hundreds attend the funeral for 19-year-old soldier Ron Kokia in Tel Aviv’s Kiryat Shaul military cemetery on December 3, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“We have no words to describe how to continue living with the thought that you are not with us,” Kokia’s sister Shani said between sobs. “How were you there [in the bus station] all by yourself without us around to protect you? We so badly want to have been there during your last moments to hug you and not let go.”

Kokia, from Tel Aviv, served in the Nahal Brigade, an infantry unit whose home base is located just outside Arad.

The soldier was waiting for a ride near a mall in the southern city at approximately 9:30 p.m. when he was attacked. When medics arrived at the scene, they found him in critical condition, unconscious and without a pulse, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service. A helicopter was ordered to rush him to hospital. Medics performed CPR in the ambulance but were forced to pronounce him dead before they reached the helicopter, one of the medics said.

His family donated his organs, Army Radio reported.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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