Palestinian killed in Nablus clashes as IDF hunts for Ariel terrorist

47 Palestinians said injured in fighting in West Bank city as Israeli troops search for Arab Israeli man suspected of stabbing Rabbi Itamar Ben-Gal to death

Illustrative: Israeli soldiers search the area around the West Bank city of Nablus on January 11, 2018, as part of a manhunt after the perpetrators of a lethal terror attack outside a nearby settlement. (Israel Defense Forces)
Illustrative: Israeli soldiers search the area around the West Bank city of Nablus on January 11, 2018, as part of a manhunt after the perpetrators of a lethal terror attack outside a nearby settlement. (Israel Defense Forces)

A Palestinian was killed and 47 others were injured in clashes with IDF soldiers in the West Bank city of Nablus on Tuesday evening, according to the Palestinian health ministry, as Israeli troops pursued the terrorist behind the killing of a rabbi on Monday.

Soldiers arrested seven people in Nablus, as part of a manhunt after Arab Israeli Abed al-Karim Assi, who is suspected of carrying out Monday’s terror attack, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

However, Assi remains at large, the army said late Tuesday night.

Earlier, troops had surrounded two buildings in the Palestinian city. One of them was the home of Assi’s father. The other belongs to a friend of the family, the Palestinian Ma’an News outlet reported.

Clashes between residents and soldiers broke out in the area where the army was deployed.

“During the activity, a violent riot was instigated as approximately 500 Palestinians hurled rocks, firebombs and explosive devices and fired live rounds at IDF soldiers,” the army said.

“Soldiers responded with riot dispersal means and fired warning shots into the air,” the IDF said.

Forty-seven people were injured in the ensuing clashes, the Palestinian health ministry said, five of them seriously.

The ministry named the slain Palestinian as Khaled Walid al-Tayeh.

The IDF said it was aware of the reports that a protester was killed and that dozens more were injured, but would not confirm them.

No Israeli soldiers were injured in the clashes, the army said.

Itamar Ben-Gal, right, who was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist on February 5, 2018, pictured with his wife Miriam. (Courtesy)

On Monday afternoon, the 19-year-old Assi stabbed to death Rabbi Itamar Ben-Gal, 29, at a hitchhiking post near the entrance to the Ariel settlement, in an attack that was caught on surveillance cameras.

Footage from the scene showed the terrorist crossing a road toward Ben-Gal, who was standing in front of a bus stop, and stabbing him. Ben-Gal then fled across the street with the stabber in pursuit.

The scene of a stabbing attack outside the West Bank settlement of Ariel, February 5, 2018 (Ben Dori/Flash90)

Medics tried to resuscitate Ben-Gal, who was stabbed three times in the chest. He was taken to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikvah, but succumbed to his wounds.

Assi managed to evade capture following the attack even after an IDF officer hit him with his car while in pursuit. Assi, who holds a blue Israeli identity card, indicating residence in Israel, has been on the run since.

On Tuesday morning, Ben-Tal was laid to rest in a cemetery in the Har Bracha settlement where he lived with his family. He is survived by his wife and four children.

Friends and family of Rabbi Itamar Ben-Gal mourn beside his body during his funeral in Har Bracha on February 6, 2018. Ben-Gal was fatally stabbed by a Palestinian terrorist at the entrance to Ariel, in the West Bank, a day earlier. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Assi’s mother — an Israeli citizen– denounced her son’s actions and called on him to give himself up.

Assi’s mother spoke with journalists on the condition of anonymity from her home in the northern Israel port city of Haifa on Tuesday. She said police investigators had informed her they believe Assi carried out the attack. She added that she had no idea where he might be hiding.

The woman, said to be in her 40s, said, “My son has no right to harm anyone. I condemn his actions and call on him to give himself up because what he did doesn’t help anyone. On the contrary, he destroyed himself and everything.”

Abed al-Karim Assi in a Facebook post from December 30, 2017. (Screen capture: Facebook)

Assi used his blue Israeli ID card to spend time in both Israel and the West Bank.

His mother said her son had had a troubled past, beginning when he was taken from her by social services 40 days after he was born, the Ynet news site reported. She next saw him when he was 16 and has had intermittent contact with him in the years that followed.

Assi’s past included drug addiction and time spent living on the streets. All attempts to help him rehabilitate failed, said his mother, noting that her own marital problems had merited assistance from welfare groups.

The Welfare Ministry released a statement Monday evening saying Assi “was known to social services.”

“Over the years, attempts were made to help the young man, who was abandoned by his parents,” the statement said, adding that the 19-year-old had more than once left his housing and rehabilitation programs.

Assi had also received assistance from the Shanti Home in Tel Aviv for at-risk youth, where he lived for a short period in 2016. He left after three months, when administrators told him he could no longer make weekly visits to his family in Nablus due to concerns his travels between Israel and the West Bank might be exploited by terror groups.

On Tuesday, one social worker from Assi’s past described him to the Hadashot television news network as “a young man in crisis,” but said he never expressed any hatred towards Jews or Israelis.

“His mother didn’t acknowledge him from a young age, and the father lives in Nablus and also didn’t want to acknowledge him [as a son],” the social worker said

Assi was “loved by staff and other youth” at the troubled-youth program, he said, adding that he was “shocked” to learn he was named as the terrorist.

Zaka volunteers at the scene of a terror attack near the entrance to Ariel, in the West Bank on February 5, 2018. (Ben Dori/Flash90)

“He never said anything nationalistic. He had no political interests at all, and never expressed any hatred toward us [Jews],” he added.

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