The Palestinian suspect in the murder on Thursday of Israeli teen Ori Ansbacher in Jerusalem was identified Saturday as Arafat Irfayia, a 29-year-old resident of the West Bank city of Hebron who was in Israel illegally. A Channel 12 news report quoted Israeli security officials saying he had confessed to the killing.
Citing Irfaiya’s account under questioning, the police and 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. “He attacked and murdered her,” the statement said.
Irfayia had previously served time for being in Israel illegally and for possession of a knife, Channel 13 reported. Other details of the murder investigation remain barred from publication.
Ansbacher, 19, was found dead in the woods at Ein Yael in south Jerusalem late Thursday, with what police said were “signs of violence,” after she was reported missing earlier in the day.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated the security services for the speed with which they arrested “the abhorrent murderer.”
“The long arm of Israel will reach whoever hurts us and we will settle accounts with them,” the prime minister said in a statement.
Israeli television reported over the weekend that there has been growing suspicion the killing was “nationalistic” — a term generally used to describe Palestinian terrorism.
Channel 12 reported Saturday that during his interrogation, Irfayia did not indicate such a motive. According to the report, police are also checking whether the attack was sexual in nature.
“The interrogation of the suspect is ongoing and is focused in particular on the motives for the murder,” the statement on Saturday said.
According to Ynet reporter Elior Levy, citing Palestinian sources, Irfayia is affiliated with the Palestinian terror group Hamas and resides in an area of Hebron where the group has wide support. Channel 13, by contrast, said Irfayia was not known to have associations with terror groups.
Also Saturday, Israeli investigators said that forensic evidence at the murder scene led security forces to the arrest of the suspect Friday night. He was tied to the crime by DNA evidence, Channel 13 said.
Irfayia was arrested as part of a series of raids in the West Bank’s Ramallah/el-Bireh area on Friday on two residential buildings and the Jamal Abdel-Nasser Mosque. According to PA news outlet Wafa, Israeli troops confiscated security camera footage from the neighborhood, as well as from the mosque.
Channel 12 reported that the first raid on the mosque on Friday evening did not turn up the suspect and security forces conducted a second raid, acting on intelligence, on a nearby abandoned building in the al-Bireh area later in the night, sending in a police dog to find and apprehend the suspect.
Police said Saturday that the forensic evidence at the scene tied Irfayia to the murder “without question,” according to a Channel 13 report. The arrest of the suspect was “very quiet,” the police added.
Ansbacher’s family was notified of the arrest over the course of Saturday.
Ansbacher’s body was found at Ein Yael, which lies between the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo and the West Bank village of Walaja. The murder has been described by Israeli authorities as brutal; Ansbacher was said to have been stabbed multiple times.
Ansbacher was buried Friday in her hometown, the West Bank settlement of Tekoa, and politicians from across the political spectrum issued statements of condolence.
“At this difficult hour we all embrace the Ansbacher family and the people of Tekoa. The security forces are investigating the murder — we will find those responsible for it, and we will bring the matter to justice,” Netanyahu pledged.
Ansbacher was carrying out a year of national service at a youth center in Jerusalem at the time of her death.