Shin Bet confirms last week’s fatal Petah Tikva stabbing was terror attack

Palestinian Khalil Dweikat from West Bank village suspected of killing Rabbi Shai Ohayon on the outskirts of Tel Aviv suburb

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Emergency responders arrive at the scene of a stabbing at the Segula Junction outside Petah Tikva on August 26, 2020. (Magen David Adom)
Emergency responders arrive at the scene of a stabbing at the Segula Junction outside Petah Tikva on August 26, 2020. (Magen David Adom)

The Shin Bet security service on Monday confirmed that the deadly stabbing in Petah Tikva last week was a terror attack, as was initially suspected.

“In a joint investigation by the Shin Bet and Israel Police it was determined that the assailant acquired a knife and carried out the attack out of nationalist motives,” the security service said.

According to Israeli authorities, last Wednesday afternoon the suspected terrorist — Khalil Abd al-Khaliq Dweikat, 46, from the village of Rujeeb in the northern West Bank — stabbed to death Rabbi Shai Ohayon near the Segula Junction on the outskirts of the Tel Aviv suburb of Petah Tikva. Dweikat could be seen on traffic camera footage walking away from the scene on foot after the attack, and he was captured a short distance away.

Upon his arrest, officers searched the suspect and found a bloodstained knife that was apparently used in the attack, police said.

Rabbi Shai Ohayon, who was stabbed to death in an apparent terror attack at Segula Junction on August 26, 2020 (Courtesy)

Ohayon, a 39-year-old father of four, was a member of Petah Tikva’s ultra-Orthodox community and studied full time at a religious institution known as a kollel in the nearby town of Kfar Saba, according to Haredi news outlets.

In its statement, the Shin Bet accused Dweikat of violating his work permit at the time of the attack by remaining in Israel for several days in a row when he was required to return home each night.

However, at the time, Palestinians were barred from going back and forth between Israel and the West Bank each day under new coronavirus restrictions issued by the Defense Ministry. Under those orders — which were issued in late June and ended on Sunday — Palestinian workers were required to stay in Israel for a period of three weeks.

Khalil Abd al-Khaliq Dweikat who is suspected of carrying out a deadly stabbing attack in Petah Tikva, in an undated photograph. (Facebook)

Asked about this discrepancy, the Shin Bet told The Times of Israel that it was referring only to the original conditions of the work permit, not to any new directives. The security service refused to comment further on the matter, saying the investigation was ongoing.

Such violations are common among Palestinian workers, as the process of crossing back and forth into Israel from the West Bank can be time-consuming and complicated.

The Shin Bet vets potential Palestinian workers to make sure they are not a security threat before granting them work permits.

Dweikat, a father of six, had no history of terrorist activities, the Shin Bet said shortly after the attack.

Family and friends attend the funeral of Rabbi Shai Ohayon, who was killed in a terror stabbing, at the Segula cemetery in Petah Tikva, August 27, 2020. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

It is highly unusual 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 twenties.

Ohayon’s funeral was held in Petah Tikva’s Segula Cemetery in the early hours of Thursday morning, with 40 people in attendance and over 150 more outside the burial ground due to coronavirus restrictions. He is survived by his wife Sivan and their four children: Tohar, 13, Hillel, 11, Shiloh, 9, and Malachi, 4.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

Most Popular
read more: