The Israel Defense Forces on Thursday night mapped out the West Bank home of a Palestinian man, suspected in the murder of an Israeli woman, in preparation for its potential future demolition, on the same day of his arrest by security forces.
The IDF released a video of troops operating at the house in the village of Tura, near Jenin.
The man is suspected of murdering Israeli Esther Horgen early this week in the West Bank. Horgen, 52, a mother of six, went for a run in the Reihan forest near her home in the settlement of Tal Menashe on Sunday afternoon and did not return, whereupon her husband, Benjamin, notified the police. Her body was found in the early hours of Monday in the forest, having apparently been violently murdered.
Palestinian media identified the suspect as a 36-year-old man from Tura, a town in the Jenin governorate around 2.5 kilometers’ drive from Tal Menashe. The reports further indicated that he had served time in an Israeli prison for security offenses. The Times of Israel confirmed the detainee’s arrest and prior jail time, but the prisoner’s identity remains under a gag order.
Israeli authorities often take punitive action such as home demolitions even before a conviction in cases of terrorist attacks. Jerusalem defends the practice of razing the family home of attackers as a deterrent against future assaults and officials have argued that speed is essential, claiming that the deterrent factor degrades over time.
Over the years, a number of Israeli defense officials have questioned the efficacy of the practice and human rights activists have denounced it as unfair collective punishment.
הלילה פעלו לוחמי צה״ל בכפר טורה שבמרחב החטיבה המרחבית ״מנשה״, למיפוי ביתו של חשוד בביצוע הרצח של אסתר הורגן ז״ל ביער ריחן ב-20 בדצמבר 2020. המיפוי בוצע לצורך בחינת האפשרות להריסת הבית pic.twitter.com/P2T9OA3SNB
— צבא ההגנה לישראל (@idfonline) December 25, 2020
According to Channel 13 news, the interrogation of the suspect revealed he was not a member of a terror group and had waited in the forest to attack any Israeli who passed by. The suspect snuck up on Horgen, striking her several times in the head before hiding her body, the report said.
The military has said additional suspected accomplices were detained for questioning Thursday, without specifying how many.
Esther’s husband hailed the news of the suspect’s arrest Thursday.
“We of course commend [the security forces]; I was sure it was going to happen sooner or later,” Benjamin Horgen said in a statement. “They did the job in a terrific way, and we trust the security forces and the courts, and of course expect justice to be served to the fullest with the despicable murderer.”
“Just as we always do, we used all the means the security apparatus has at its disposal, and we have speedily arrested the suspect in the horrific murder of Esther Horgen. The IDF and all security forces will reach every terrorist and stomp on terror every time and place it rears its head,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a tweet.
Samaria Regional Council Chairman Yossi Dagan said that the proper response to Horgen’s death was to “strengthen the settlement of Samaria,” referring to the northern West Bank.
“I call upon the prime minister to approve construction in Tel Menashe by next week as the true response to the murder,” Dagan said.
Horgen’s murder sparked several days of tension in the West Bank. On Monday night, dozens of settlers marched through Huwara, a Palestinian village close to Nablus, in response to the murder. According to Hebrew media reports, 13 allegations that settlers threw stones at Palestinians were reported on Tuesday alone.
Tensions also rose after the death of Ahuvia Sandak, a 16-year-old from the settlement of Bat Ayin, who was killed in a car crash Monday when he and others tried to flee police after allegedly throwing rocks at Palestinians in the central West Bank. The far-right Honenu legal aid organization, which often defends hilltop youth, accused the police of ramming into Sandak’s car and flipping it over.
Sandak’s death triggered days of ultranationalist settler demonstrations outside the Israel Police’s Jerusalem headquarters.
The policemen involved in the deadly pursuit were summoned to the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Affairs Department on Thursday for interrogation.
Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report.