Army reportedly nabs a suspect in deadly West Bank stabbing attack

Soldiers also said to confiscate car of Beit Fajjar resident over suspicions it was used in Dvir Sorek’s murder; IDF says hunt for terrorists ongoing

IDF soldiers during searches in the West Bank for the terrorists who killed Dvir Sorek, on August 9, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF soldiers during searches in the West Bank for the terrorists who killed Dvir Sorek, on August 9, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli security forces reportedly arrested a suspect on Friday during searches for the killers of  Dvir Sorek in a stabbing attack in the West Bank, according to Palestinian reports.

Soldiers also reportedly confiscated the car of a suspect, a resident of the Palestinian village of Beit Fajjar, over suspicions it was used in Wednesday’s attack.

Palestinian media identified the suspect as Ammar Thawabteh, 29. It was not immediately clear what his role was in the terror attack.

The Ynet news site said that Israeli security forces apparently knew the identity of the killer or killers.

There was no confirmation of the arrest from the army, which said in a statement the manhunt for the terrorists was ongoing.

It also released a video of soldiers operating in the West Bank that showed a car being towed away on a military vehicle.

Beit Fajjar is near the settlement of Migdal Oz, outside of which the body of yeshiva student Sorek was found early Thursday.

Sorek, 18, was studying at a seminary in Migdal Oz as part of a program combining Torah study and military service. He was last seen leaving the settlement Wednesday to buy books for his teachers in Jerusalem.

Earlier Friday, Prime Minister Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said security forces were hot on the heels of Sorek’s murderers.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the site where the body of an Israeli seminary student killed in a terror attack was found, outside the West Bank settlement of Migdal Oz, on August 8, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

“According to a briefing I received a short while ago, we are on our way. It won’t take very long,” said Netanyahu, who also serves as defense minister.

In an effort to locate the terrorists who carried out the Wednesday night attack, the Shin Bet security service, assisted by the Israel Defense Forces and Israel Police, launched a massive manhunt in the surrounding area on Thursday morning and the military deployed additional troops throughout the West Bank.

The military fears the terrorists may attempt to carry out additional attacks or serve as inspiration for other would-be attackers. These concerns were especially heightened in light of the upcoming Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha and the Jewish fast day of Tisha B’Av on Sunday.

Initially, the search effort focused on the Palestinian village of Beit Fajjar, near Bethlehem, which is adjacent to Migdal Oz. Palestinian media reported that soldiers confiscated surveillance camera footage from businesses in the town in an apparent effort to track the escape route of the assailants.

On Thursday night and early Friday morning, security forces expanded their operations to the Palestinian town of Halhul, north of Hebron, according to Palestinian media.

Security forces were also reportedly concerned the terror cell behind the deadly stabbing attack may have split up, making the search effort more difficult. The group is believed to be getting assistance in evading capture.

On Thursday evening, Israeli security forces dismissed their initial suspicion that the deadly stabbing attack was a failed kidnapping attempt, instead deeming it a premeditated murder.

Dvir Sorek, 19, a yeshiva student and off-duty IDF soldier who was found stabbed to death outside a West Bank settlement on August 8, 2019 (Courtesy)

It was not immediately clear if the attack was carried out by members of a terror group or by unaffiliated terrorists.

Though only one person is believed to have carried out the stabbing, an as-yet unknown number of people were in the car and assisted in the attack.

The IDF refused to publicly comment on details of the case because it is still under investigation. A court also placed many details of the attack under a gag order.

Netanyahu and IDF chief Aviv Kohavi visited the scene of the attack on Thursday and spoke with the commanders leading the search effort.

As of Thursday night, no one had taken responsibility for killing Sorek. However, two of the largest Palestinian terror groups — Hamas and the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad — praised the attack and indicated it was a response to a recent wave of East Jerusalem demolitions carried out by Israel last month.

In recent months, the Shin Bet warned that the Gaza-based Hamas has put considerable effort and resources into recruiting operatives to carry out attacks in the West Bank and Israel.

Sorek’s funeral was held in the Ofra settlement’s cemetery late Thursday night, drawing thousands of people, where he was eulogized by his father Yoav as “a gift that spread light and goodness both inside the family and outside it.”

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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