The father of 18-year-old Dvir Sorek, killed in a terror attack late Wednesday near the West Bank settlement of Migdal Oz, thanked Israeli security forces late Saturday for their quick work in catching suspects in the attack, but said in a statement he was “disappointed they were captured alive.”
The Shin Bet security service announced Saturday that it had arrested two Palestinian cousins suspected in the deadly stabbing, identifying them as Nasir Asafra, 24, and Qassem Asafra, 30, from the village of Beit Kahil in the southern West Bank. While the Israel Defense Forces said the former is a Hamas member, neither had any prior arrests.
“We are grateful to the security forces for their swift action in catching the terrorists, though we are disappointed they were captured alive. We are glad that Dvir, may God avenge his blood, didn’t see the faces of his killers, and we will try not to see them either, not now and not in court,” father Yoav Sorek said.
He added that the family supports the Israeli security forces as they do the “difficult work” of preventing and thwarting future terror attacks.
Dvir Sorek was found stabbed to death in the predawn hours of Thursday outside Migdal Oz, where he was studying in a religious seminary.
Chief Superintendent S., a senior officer in the Border Police’s elite counter-terrorism unit Yamam, offered details on the Saturday morning capture in an interview with the Ynet news site published Sunday.
“We arrived in the area [of the southern West Bank early on Saturday] and waited for exact intelligence on the suspects’ location,” he said. “The word came around 3 in the morning. The suspects’ identities were already known to us.”
As the officers deployed to the village of Beit Kahil, northwest of Hebron, the Yamam unit split into two teams. The two cousins were in separate homes about 80 meters (260 feet) apart.
S. led the overall operation and the team entering the first home, while his deputy led the other team at the second house.
“Seconds before” they entered the homes, “we got new information from the Shin Bet people with us that the terrorist and another person were sleeping on the roof. That’s relatively common in the summer, that Palestinians sometimes sleep on the roof because the house is hot. We immediately changed our plans. We broke in through the front entrance quietly and went up the stairs. We reached the door to the roof. We sent a dog ahead and found them sleeping. They opened their eyes and saw us and our fighters with dogs. They were in complete shock, with fear in their eyes. They didn’t believe we would get to them.”
S. went on: “We started to question them. They lied about their names at first, but soon retracted” and gave their real names.
“At the same time, the second team had run into a snag. The suspect wasn’t there. The force had to redeploy to the house next door, where it encountered family members at the entrance who tried to delay the forces. A physical altercation ensued. The force entered and saw the second suspect standing there. Bingo.”
It was a textbook arrest, S., who has led such raids for 20 years as an officer in the Yamam, told Ynet.
“I can say that every single time I’ve looked the murderers in the eye, I’ve seen fear there. They don’t believe how we get to them every time, how hard we work to settle the score.”
S., a 40-year-old father of three, said he had read about the murdered youth before the operation.
“Dvir’s picture doesn’t leave my mind. From the moment his body was found [on Thursday morning], I’ve read about him, learned about him. I wanted to know him. I saw what the author David Grossman said about him, after we learned that he was holding his last book in his hands when he was murdered. This was such a wonderful boy. He had just gone to buy books for his teachers. What the author said really hit me. When I learned the details of the [killing], I understood how much they had taken advantage of the fact that he was alone, an innocent and helpless youth, when they attacked him by surprised and then fled.”
Nasir’s brother Akrama and Qassem’s wife Ines were also arrested in the raid. A Shin Bet spokesman said security forces were looking into whether they helped hide the alleged killers after the attack.
A vehicle belonging to one of the suspects was also confiscated in the joint Shin Bet-Border Police-IDF raid. The army said that the car was believed to have been used in the attack.
While Yamam was arresting the suspects, IDF forces provided a protective envelope in and around the village, where some 100 residents began hurling stones at the troops. Soldiers responded using riot dispersal means to scatter them, the IDF said. No injuries to either side were reported in the operation.
Praising the arrests, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday night: “In recent years, our forces have managed to track down the Palestinian murderers who target Israelis. Today they have done so again. We will continue to fight terrorism intensely on all fronts.”
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, a former chief of staff of the army, called the arrests “another demonstration of the operational capabilities of the IDF, Shin Bet and Israel Police.” He noted the recent thwarted attacks from Gaza and in Jerusalem, and called for a harsher response from the government, warning that “the continued erosion of our deterrence will unfortunately bring another round of violence.”
Sorek, 18, was studying at a seminary as part of a program combining Torah study and military service. He was last seen leaving Migdal Oz on Wednesday to buy books for his teachers in Jerusalem.
Two of the largest Palestinian terror groups — Hamas and the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad — praised the stabbing and claimed it was a response to a recent wave of East Jerusalem demolitions carried out by Israel last month. Neither group claimed direct responsibility.
In a statement, Hamas said it praised “our people’s heroic fighters who carried out the heroic operation that killed a soldier in the occupation’s army.” Hamas, a jihadist terror group, seeks to destroy Israel.
Hazem Qassim, a spokesperson for Hamas, told the Gaza-based Shehab news outlet that the attack was proof of the failure of security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority security forces.
The cooperation is seen as a key component to Israeli security operations in the West Bank and is seen as a bulwark against Hamas.
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.
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.