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Palestinian arrested in suspected terrorist killing of Israeli mother of six

TV network says man confesses, gives details on attack; reports indicate he is a released security prisoner; security forces also detain several potential accomplices

A photo released by the Israel Defense Forces on December 24, 2020, shows soldiers in the West Bank detaining a suspect in the suspected murder of Israeli woman Esther Horgen. (Israel Defense Forces)
A photo released by the Israel Defense Forces on December 24, 2020, shows soldiers in the West Bank detaining a suspect in the suspected murder of Israeli woman Esther Horgen. (Israel Defense Forces)

Security forces arrested a Palestinian man Thursday suspected in the murder of Israeli Esther Horgen early this week in the West Bank, as well as several suspected accomplices.

The Shin Bet security service announced on Thursday that it had arrested a man suspected in the murder, a resident of Jenin. Later in the day the military said additional suspected accomplices were detained for questioning, without specifying how many.

Horgen, 52, a mother of six, went for a run in the Reihan forest near her house in the settlement of Tal Menashe on Sunday afternoon and did not return, whereupon her husband, Benjamin, notified the police. Her body was found in the early hours of Monday in the forest, apparently after she was killed violently.

According to Channel 13 news, the interrogation of the suspect revealed he was not a member of a terror group and had waited in the forest to attack any Israeli who passed by. The suspect snuck up on Horgen, striking her several times in the head before hiding her body, the report said.

Investigators were reportedly looking into how long the suspect waited in the forest and whether he brought a weapon with him. The network said security forces received intelligence Thursday on his identity and waited to determine he was home before arresting him.

Palestinian media named the detainee as a 36-year-old man from Tura, a town in the Jenin governorate around 2.5 kilometers’ drive from Tal Menashe. The reports further indicated that he had served time in Israeli prison for security offenses. The Times of Israel confirmed the detainee’s arrest and prior jail time, but the prisoner’s identity remains under a gag order.

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

Esther’s husband hailed the news of the suspect’s arrest.

“We of course commend [the security forces]; I was sure it was going to happen sooner or later,” Benjamin Horgen said in a statement. “They did the job in a terrific way, and we trust the security forces and the courts, and of course expect justice to be served to the fullest with the despicable murderer.”

“Just as we always do, we used all the means the security apparatus has at its disposal, and we have speedily arrested the suspect in the horrific murder of Esther Horgen. The IDF and all security forces will reach every terrorist and stomp on terror every time and place it rears its head,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a tweet.

A photo released by the Israel Defense Forces on December 24, 2020, shows soldiers in the West Bank detaining a suspect in the suspected murder of Israeli woman Esther Horgen. (Israel Defense Forces)

Samaria Regional Council Chairman Yossi Dagan said that the proper response to Horgen’s death was to “strengthen the settlement of Samaria,” referring to the northern West Bank.

“I call upon the prime minister to approve construction in Tel Menashe by next week as the true response to the murder,” Dagan said.

Col. Yair Peli, the head of the Menashe Regional Brigade, said the other detainees were suspected accomplices in the killing.

“The soldiers of the brigade and the IDF will continue to act to close the circle around all those involved and will work to destroy the terrorist’s home,” Peli was quoted saying in the statement.

Horgen’s murder sparked several days of tension in the West Bank. On Monday night, dozens of settlers marched through Huwara, a Palestinian village close to Nablus, in response to the murder. According to Israeli media reports, 13 allegations that settlers threw stones at Palestinians were reported on Tuesday alone.

Israelis protest in Safed on December 22, 2020, following the death of Ahuvia Sandak, who was killed when his car flipped over while being chased by police in the West Bank. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Tensions also rose after the death of Ahuvia Sandak, a 16-year-old from the settlement of Bat Ayin, who was killed in a car crash Monday when he and others tried to flee police after allegedly throwing rocks at Palestinians in the central West Bank. The far-right Honenu legal aid organization, which often defends hilltop youth, accused the police of ramming into Sandak’s car and flipping it over.

Sandak’s death triggered three days of ultranationalist settler demonstrations outside of the Israel Police’s Jerusalem headquarters. Calling for an investigation into the police’s responsibility in Sandak’s death, the crowd tried to break into the police headquarters, resulting in dozens of arrests.

The policemen involved in the deadly pursuit were summoned to the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Affairs Department on Thursday for interrogation.

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