An Arab Israeli man was charged Thursday with the murder of Rabbi Itamar Ben-Gal, who was stabbed to death in a terror attack at the West Bank settlement of Ariel last month, with the indictment saying that the victim was chosen because of his appearance as a Jew.
On February 5, 19-year-old Abed al-Karim Assi is believed to have attacked Ben-Gal, 29, at a bus stop outside Ariel. Assi fled the scene, leading security forces on a month-long manhunt that ended with his arrest last week in the Palestinian city of Nablus.
According to the indictment filed at the Central District Court, Assi decided to commit a terror attack and kill Jews after he had an argument with an IDF soldier at a junction outside Ariel.
Later on the same day, Assi is said to have purchased two 27-centimeter-long knives at a store in Nablus and returned to the same junction, where he spotted Ben-Gal at a bus stop and recognized him as Jewish by kippa.
He then closed in on Ben-Gal and stabbed him “with great force” in his chest and abdomen, continuing to pursue his victim even after the latter attempted to flee. A passing driver noticed what was happening and hit Assi with his car, prompting him to flee the scene.
Prosecutors have requested that Assi be remanded until the conclusion of court proceedings against him.
On March 18, after more than a month of extensive searches, security forces arrested Assi in a predawn raid in Nablus, where his father lives. Before the attack he had used his Israeli citizenship to spend time on both sides of the Green Line, including with his mother, who lives in Haifa.
In a statement following Assi’s nabbing, Ben-Gal’s widow Miriam said, “The truth is that I do not feel anything. This will not bring him (Itamar) back home to me…and it will not prevent another terrorist from destroying another family’s life.”
She called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to authorize the construction of 800 housing units in the family’s settlement of Har Bracha.
“This is our consolation and the consolation of all the people of Israel. This will be the real answer to Itamar’s murder,” she concluded.
Footage from the scene of the attack showed Assi 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.
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.
He 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.
Judah Ari Gross and Jacob Magid contributed to this report.