Israel nabs the two suspected killers of Dvir Sorek; one has Hamas ties

Israel nabs the two suspected killers of Dvir Sorek; one has Hamas ties

Palestinian cousins, from Hebron-area village near where murder took place, taken for questioning; forces make two other arrests of relatives, confiscate vehicle used in attack

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

The Shin Bet security service announced Saturday that it had arrested two Palestinian cousins suspected of stabbing to death 18-year-old Israeli Dvir Sorek in a terror attack late on Wednesday near the West Bank settlement of Migdal Oz.

Security forces identified the two suspects 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 that the former suspect is a Hamas member, neither of them had any prior arrests.

The two were sleeping in their home when forces arrived at around 3 a.m. Saturday, apparently not anticipating being tracked and captured so quickly.

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 these two helped hide the alleged killers after the attack.

One of the suspects in the murder of Dvir Sorek after being arrested by the IDF in the West Bank on August 10, 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

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 “presumably” used in the attack.

Sorek was found stabbed to death in the predawn hours on Thursday outside the settlement of Migdal Oz, where he was studying in a religious seminary.

His father Yoav thanked Israeli security forces on Saturday night for their quick work in catching the killers, but said in a statement he was “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,” Yoav Sorek said, using a traditional honorific for Jews who have been murdered.

He added that Israeli security forces should work to prevent and thwart future terror attacks.

The IDF said that some 100 residents of Beit Kahil began hurling stones at troops while they were carrying out the arrest raid. Soldiers responded using riot dispersal means to scatter them. No injuries were reported.

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.”

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.

Dvir Sorek, 18, a yeshiva student and off-duty IDF soldier who was found stabbed to death outside a West Bank settlement on August 8, 2019. (Courtesy)

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.

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