Israel arrests Palestinian suspected of killing soldier with stone slab
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Israel arrests Palestinian suspected of killing soldier with stone slab

Alleged assailant detained last week, Shin Bet says; suspect previously jailed for Hamas terrorist activities, brothers connected to murder of Shin Bet agent in 1994

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Israeli forces last week arrested a Palestinian man suspected of killing an IDF soldier last month by dropping a large stone slab on his head, the Shin Bet security service revealed Wednesday.

On June 6, troops from the Shin Bet and Israel Defense Forces raided the al-Am’ari refugee camp in Ramallah, where soldier Ronen Lubarsky had been killed, and arrested 32-year-old Islam Yousef Abu Hamid, the security service said.

Details of the arrest were kept under a court-issued gag order until Wednesday.

The Shin Bet said Hamid is believed to be the assailant who dropped a stone block on Lubarsky from the roof of a three-story building during an arrest raid in al-Am’ari on May 24.

The IDF also released a video from the June 6 raid, showing special forces soldiers entering al-Am’ari in daylight and arresting Hamid in his home, along with a number of other suspects.

Israeli troops on June 6, 2018, arrest a Palestinian man suspected of killing an IDF soldier by dropping a stone slab on his head in the al-Am’ari refugee camp in Ramallah the month before. (Screen capture: Israel Defense Forces)

The Shin Bet said it believed Hamid was responsible for the attack that killed Lubarsky “following intelligence activities.”

Lubarsky, 20, a member of the elite Duvdevan unit, was critically injured in the attack and succumbed to his wounds in the hospital the next day. He was laid to rest the following morning at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl military cemetery. The army posthumously promoted him to the rank of staff sergeant.

Ronen Lubarsky, an IDF soldier from the Duvdevan unit who died on May 26, 2018 after being critically injured by a slab thrown on his head two days earlier (Courtesy)

“Since this difficult event, we’ve operated in collaboration with the Shin Bet and other forces in the refugee camp,” said the deputy commander of the Duvdevan unit in a Hebrew video statement.

“In addition, we have continued to operate constantly in Judea and Samaria, at all hours of the day, in order to stop and prevent terror attacks that would harm the citizens of the State of Israel,” he said using the biblical term for the West Bank.

A few days after Lubarsky was killed, the military carried out a raid in al-Am’ari,  in an apparent effort to locate the soldier’s killer. Clashes broke out between residents and the Israeli troops, with 13 Palestinians getting lightly or moderately injured, the Palestinian Health Ministry said at the time.

According to the Shin Bet, Hamid had been incarcerated in Israeli prison from 2004 to 2009 for terrorist activities committed on behalf of the Hamas terrorist group.

Israeli troops on June 6, 2018, arrest a Palestinian man suspected of killing an IDF soldier by dropping a stone slab on his head in the al-Am’ari refugee camp in Ramallah the month before. (Israel Defense Forces)

In a statement, the security service also said Hamid’s brothers were also members of Hamas.

“Islam’s brothers are Hamas operatives who have in the past carried out terror attacks in which Israelis were killed, including Shin Bet agent Noam Cohen,” the Shin Bet said.

Cohen was killed in 1994 when Hamas members opened fire at his car while he was driving with a Hamas informant in the West Bank city of Hebron.

The Shin Bet said its investigation was ongoing and that all other details besides Hamid’s arrest remained under a gag order.

Soldiers carry the coffin of their comrade Ronen Lubarsky during his funeral at the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem, on May 27, 2018 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said the arrest of the suspected killer showed that “no one is immune and no vile terrorist can hide from the arms of the defense establishment.”

After Lubarsky’s death, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that his killer would be brought to justice.

“Our security forces will get to the terrorist, and the State of Israel will bring him to justice,” Netanyahu said.

Friends and family attend the funeral of IDF soldier Ronen Lubarsky at the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem, on May 27, 2018 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

At his funeral, Lubarsky, from the central city of Rehovot, was remembered as being exemplary and a “warrior.”

“My dear brother, how did we arrive at this strange situation?” Lubarsky’s brother Eric said at the funeral, which was attended by hundreds. “You fought. Throughout your life you chose all of the closed doors and were better than everyone else. I’m sure you chose this moment too.”

The commander of Lubarsky’s Duvdevan unit, Lt. Col. A, praised the deceased as “the son of a family of warriors, the salt of the earth. While we prayed at your bedside in the hospital, your mother pointed at members of the family and said, ‘They’re all warriors, but Ronen is the best.’ Your mother was right. You were among the finest fighters in the unit.”

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