IDF readies to raze home of Jerusalem murder suspect, indicating terror motive

Army measures Hebron house of Arafat Irfayia, who is suspected of killing 19-year-old Ori Ansbacher in Jerusalem wooded area

The Israeli military on Sunday began preparing to demolish the home of a Palestinian man suspected of murdering a 19-year-old Israeli woman in Jerusalem last week, further indicating that security forces believe the gruesome killing was terrorist in nature.

Arafat Irfayia, 29, was arrested in Ramallah on Friday on suspicion of killing Ori Ansbacher in a wooded area of southern Jerusalem on Thursday, in a case that has sparked outrage across the country.

In the pre-dawn hours of Sunday morning, the Israel Defense Forces entered Irfayia’s home in the West Bank city of Hebron in order to measure the structure “to evaluate ways to demolish it,” the army said.

The Israel Police, Shin Bet security service and IDF are still investigating the grisly murder, but increasingly suspect that Irfayia had a nationalistic motive.

Israeli troops measure the Hebron home of a Palestinian man suspected of murdering Ori Ansbacher in Jerusaelm, on February 10, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked told Channel 13 news Saturday that “the military prosecution needs to ask for the death penalty.”

Shaked and other ministers have insisted that the murder was a terror attack, though most details of the incident have been kept under gag order.

“We should not hide the truth,” she told the news channel. “He killed Ori because she was a Jewish girl.”

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told the Kan public broadcaster on Sunday that the death penalty should be used in certain circumstances.

“If the murderer abused his victim and if we understand that there is no way to rehabilitate him, and in cases of the murder of a family, the death penalty should be used,” Erdan said.

Ansbacher, from the settlement of Tekoa in the West Bank south of Jerusalem, was found dead in the woods at the Ein Yael nature center in south Jerusalem late Thursday, with what police said were “signs of violence,” after she was reported missing earlier in the day.

Ori Ansbacher (Courtesy)

Citing the suspect’s own account under questioning, the police and the Shin Bet said in a statement Saturday night that Irfaiya left his home in Hebron on Thursday armed with a knife and made his way toward Jerusalem, where he spotted Ansbacher in the woods and fatally attacked her.

He was arrested Friday during a raid in Ramallah but has not yet been charged. Irfayia had previously served time for being in Israel illegally and for possession of a knife, Channel 13 reported.

Israeli security forces arrest a Palestinian man in Ramallah suspected in the murder of Israeli teen Ori Ansbacher on February 8, 2019. (Israel Police)

Erdan said Saturday that authorities should treat the case as terror no matter what.

“When a Palestinian in Israel illegally murders a Jew in the State of Israel, there is no doubt that it needs to be considered as nationalistic murder,” he told Channel 13 news. “It does not matter what he says or doesn’t say in the interrogation. I hope the relevant authorities understand this and if not, we need to legislate it.”

Although the death penalty formally exists in Israeli law, it has only ever been used once — in 1962 in the case of Nazi officer Adolf Eichmann, one of the architects of the Holocaust. It is technically allowed in cases of high treason, as well as in certain circumstances under the martial law that applies within the IDF and in the West Bank, but currently requires a unanimous decision from a panel of three judges, and has never been implemented.

Israeli security forces search the scene where a body of a 19 year old woman was found in Ein Yael, in the outskirts of Jerusalem, February 8, 2019 Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Legislation that would have expanded the use of the death penalty in terror cases failed to advance late last year amid political wrangling after Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, who had been pushing the bill, left the coalition.

In April, Shaked told the Ynet news site that she was in favor of the death penalty in extreme cases, but did not think the new legislation was necessary as military prosecutors already had the option.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who as defense minister oversees the military prosecution, backed the death penalty bill in November. He also called for the death penalty after a 2017 terror attack in which several members of a family were knifed to death inside their home in the West Bank settlement of Halamish.

However, the legislation has been opposed by security officials, including Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman who called it “unhelpful” while testifying in front of a Knesset panel in November.

On Saturday, Liberman and National Union party head Bezalel Smotrich urged legislators to reconsider the death penalty legislation in the wake of the Ansbacher killing, and others urged hard-line measures.

Friends and family members attend the funeral of 19-year-old Ori Ansbacher, in the West Bank settlement of Tekoa, on February 8, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who founded the New Right party with Shaked for April elections, called on Netanyahu to implement Knesset legislation passed in July to slash funds to the PA by the amount Ramallah pays out to convicted terrorists and the families of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks.

“The terrorists are no longer afraid. At this moment [they] are preparing the next terrible murder of Jews,” Bennett said in a statement.

The education minister, along with Shaked, vowed to support the implementation of the legislation, which was supposed to have gone into effect in January.

Security officials have reportedly opposed the law due to concerns that it may lead to the collapse of the PA, whose security forces Israel cooperates with considerably to limit terror in the West Bank.

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