PM relays conclusion to family during condolence visit

Shin Bet: Murder of Israeli teen Ori Ansbacher was a terror attack

While politicians quickly deemed killing terrorism, security service waits until after Palestinian suspect reenacted crime before making call

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Ori Ansbacher, who was murdered in Jerusalem on February 7, 2019 (Courtesy)
Ori Ansbacher, who was murdered in Jerusalem on February 7, 2019 (Courtesy)

The Shin Bet security service announced Sunday that the brutal murder of 19-year-old Ori Ansbacher was a nationalistically motivated terror attack.

The intelligence agency, which is running the investigation with assistance from the Israel Police, had held off on announcing a terror motive, despite proclamations to that effect from right-wing lawmakers and pundits that began shortly after Ansbacher’s body was found in a forest on the outskirts of Jerusalem, on Thursday evening.

The Shin Bet said that the suspect, Arafat Irfayia, reenacted the murder in front of interrogators and “implicated himself definitively in the incident.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally relayed the agency’s conclusion to the Ansbacher family during a condolence call he made with his wife, Sara, at their home in the Tekoa settlement, south of Bethlehem, on Sunday evening.

Contrary to other lawmakers and President Reuven Rivlin, Netanyahu had refrained from characterizing the incident as a terror attack while the Shin Bet still worked to determine definitively the motive of the Palestinian suspect.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the family of teenage girl Ori Ansbacher, who was killed in a suspected terror attack, in their home in the Tekoa settlement, February 10, 2019 (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

In the previous statement the security service released on Saturday evening, it refrained from characterizing the attack, saying simply that the investigation was ongoing and that it was looking into all possibilities.

Police, who were first to probe the killing, quickly handed the investigation over to the Shin Bet. While the former have continued to provide forensic assistance, the security agency would not have taken a lead roll of there had not been a strong suspicion of a terror motive in the attack.

In a Saturday statement, Rivlin referred to the attack as terrorism, saying: “Personally, and on behalf of all Israelis, I would like to thank the security forces for capturing the despicable terrorist who murdered Ori Ansbacher. We will not be deterred and we will not cease our uncompromising fight against terrorism.”

“When a Palestinian illegally staying in Israel commits a heinous murder of a Jew, it definitely should be classified as a nationalistically motivated murder,” said Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan. “It doesn’t matter what he does or doesn’t say in his interrogation. I hope the relevant authorities understand that, and if not — it should be signed into law.”

On Sunday morning, Irfayia reenacted the murder at the Ein Yael nature preserve in south Jerusalem. Authorities said that the 29-year-old Hebron resident was cooperating with investigators.

He was arrested in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Friday evening.

Security forces at the scene where the body of Ori Ansbacher, 19, was found in Ein Yael forest in Jerusalem, February 7, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In the predawn hours of Sunday morning, the IDF entered Irfayia’s home in Hebron in order to prepare the structure for demolition.

Citing the suspect’s own account under questioning, the Shin Bet said in a statement Saturday night that Irfaiya left his home in Hebron on Thursday armed with a knife and made his way toward Jerusalem, where he spotted Ansbacher in the woods and fatally attacked her.

A spokesman for the Shin Bet said Irfayia had been spent time in prison for security-related offenses and that he had crossed into Israel without a permit before carrying out the murder. Hebrew media reported that the suspect is affiliated with Hamas, though neither the terror group nor others have claimed responsibility for the attack.

Additional details regarding the probe, which has sparked national outrage, remain under a court-imposed gag order.

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