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Murder indictment filed against Palestinian suspect in killing of Esther Horgen

Muhammad Mruh Kabha charged with killing mother of six as she was out hiking near her home in the West Bank

Muhammad Mruh Kabha, 40, from the Palestinian village of Tura al-Gharbiya, is suspected of murdering Esther Horgen of the Tal Menashe settlement on December 20, 2020. (Shin Bet)
Muhammad Mruh Kabha, 40, from the Palestinian village of Tura al-Gharbiya, is suspected of murdering Esther Horgen of the Tal Menashe settlement on December 20, 2020. (Shin Bet)

A Palestinian man who confessed to killing Esther Horgen last December was indicted Thursday on charges of premeditated murder, conspiracy to commit a shooting and other offenses.

Military prosecutors filed the charges against Muhammad Mruh Kabha, 40, from the village of Tura al-Gharbiya, at the Samaria Military Court and asked that he be held until the end of proceedings.

According to the indictment, the suspect was walking in the Reihan Forest in the northern West Bank on December 20 when he came across Horgen, 52, a mother of six from the nearby Tal Menashe settlement, who had gone for a hike in the forest.

As their paths crossed Horgen fled, upon which Kabha ran after her and knocked her to the ground. Horgen tried to fight him off but he pinned her down and then repeatedly hit her over the head with large rocks, causing her to bleed and breaking bones in her arms and chest, until she stopped moving.

Horgen’s body was found in the early hours of the next morning after her husband, Benjamin, reported her missing.

Esther Horgen, 52, was found dead in the northern West Bank in a suspected terror attack on December 20, 2020. (Courtesy)

According to the Shin Bet security service, after killing Horgen, Kabha fled the area and received help from friends and relatives, who helped him hide as Israeli security forces searched for him.

Kabha was arrested on December 24 along with four people the Shin Bet said helped him hide. Palestinian media reported that two of those people were his wives. Kabha later confessed to investigators that he had killed Horgen, an admission shored up by the evidence, prosecutors say.

The Shin Bet said that Kabha resolved to carry out an attack weeks earlier as revenge for the death of a security prisoner, Kamel Abu Waer, who died of cancer six weeks before the assault. He also planned, with others, to carry out a shooting attack on security forces, according to the service.

On January 26, two of Kabha’s cousins, Walid and Fatah Badran from the Palestinian village of Deir al-Ghusun, were indicted on charges of sheltering Kabha and conspiracy to commit a shooting. They are being held until the end of proceedings.

The incitement came the day after the High Court of Justice rejected an appeal by Kabha’s family against the demolition of his home.

Horgen’s murder sparked weeks of ongoing tension in the West Bank. Israeli security services reported multiple incidents of stone-throwing by settlers against Palestinians in the days immediately following Horgen’s murder. A 16-year-old settler, Ahuvia Sandak, was killed in a car crash during a police chase after allegedly hurling rocks. Sandak’s death, in turn, ignited days of near-nightly protests in Jerusalem and the West Bank, many of which turned violent.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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