Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Wednesday evening to demolish the home of a Palestinian who stabbed an Israeli man to death earlier in the day in an apparent terror attack.
The prime minister also sent condolences to the family of Rabbi Shai Ohayon, who was killed in the stabbing attack in the Tel Aviv suburb of Petah Tikva.
“My wife Sara and I embrace the family, the wife and four children who were left today without a father. We will work to demolish the home of the terrorist and seek the most severe punishment,” Netanyahu tweeted.
Ohayon, according to Ultra-Orthodox news outlets, was a member of Petah Tikva’s Haredi community and studied full time at a religious institution known as a kollel in the nearby town of Kfar Saba. Police said he was 39 years old.
Moments before the attack, Netanyahu had tweeted an article celebrating the first time in 56 years that no Israelis had been killed in a terror attack in over 365 days.
“First and foremost, I’m here to protect your lives. We will continue to bring security and from it also bring peace,” the prime minister, who has regularly pushed to demolish the homes of the perpetrators of terror attacks, wrote in his tweet.
The practice of demolishing the family homes of terrorists has been criticized by non-governmental groups, but government officials have defended its use as a deterrent against attacks. Critics claim that in addition to being a form of collective punishment, house demolitions could motivate family members of terrorists to launch attacks themselves.
Several other politicians also responded to the attack and sent condolences to Ohayon’s family.
“My heart is with the family and loved ones of Rabbi Shai Ohayon, who was murdered in cold blood,” tweeted opposition leader Yair Lapid. “The fight against terrorism continues.”
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said he was “shocked and pained over the heinous murder of the dear yeshiva student, a beloved Bratslav Hasid, a Torah scholar and a father of four, Rabbi Shai Ohayon, who fell victim to this lowlife murderer in an attack today in Petah Tikva.”
The suspect in the attack — identified by Israeli authorities as Khalil Abd al-Khaliq Dweikat, 46, from the northern West Bank — was in Israel with a legal work permit, according to the Shin Bet security service. He was arrested near the scene shortly after the attack at Petah Tikva’s Segula Junction, police said, confirming suspicions of a terror attack.
“The results of the investigation raise the suspicion of a nationalistic motive,” a police statement said.
Dweikat, a father of six from the Nablus area, had no history of terrorist activities, the Shin Bet said.
Upon his arrest, officers searched the suspect and found a blood-stained knife that was apparently used in the attack, police said.
The police handed over Dweikat to the Shin Bet for interrogation. The security service said it was looking into the possibility that he had a history of mental illness, but that it was “too soon to tell” if that could explain the attack.
It is highly irregular for Palestinians with legal work permits to carry out attacks in Israel, having undergone significant background checks and regular screenings by Israeli security services. It is similarly uncommon for these kinds of attacks to be carried out by middle-aged men; typically assailants are in their teens or 20s.