Deceased construction worker recognized as terror victim

Netanel Arami died in fall in September; court says 3 suspects were detained, then released for lack of evidence

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Netanel Arami (photo credit: Flash90)
Netanel Arami (photo credit: Flash90)

The Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court lifted a gag order Wednesday morning on the death of a construction worker who died in a fall at a building site in mid-September, revealing that security forces were treating the case as a terror attack and had briefly arrested three people in connection with the incident.

The suspects were detained by the Shin Bet security service and Israel Police and interrogated, but were later released due to insufficient evidence linking them to the death of 27-year-old Netanel Arami, who plummeted to his death from the 11th story of a building in Petah Tikva. The investigation is ongoing, with security forces operating under the assumption that the death was the result of a nationalistically motivated attack.

Meanwhile, the Arami family was formally recognized by police as victims of terrorism, and will receive compensation.

Addressing the delay in the announcement, which the family has interpreted as an intentional cover-up, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch defended the move.

“In the end, unfortunately, it was a terror attack, but there is no reason to say that there was malicious intent in [our initially] assuming it was criminal. We must wait for results, and as soon as it’s certain, we can release it to the public,” he said.

The Arami family hailed the recognition of the attack as an act of terror on Wednesday, but criticized what they said were coordinated efforts to hush up the circumstances of the case, as well as a lack of government support after their son was killed.

“It’s important to us that the facts be published, and that everyone should know the truth and understand that Netanel went to work and didn’t come back, but was rather murdered for being a Jew,” said Miriam Arami, the mother of the victim.

She said that the family had made a promise to Netanel, at the cemetery, on his birthday two weeks ago that “we would not rest until the murderers were found.”

“We are angry that no government official, like the president or prime minister, came to visit us or to even to console us by phone,” she said.

“Everyone went to comfort [the family of Muhammed] Abu Khdeir,” she continued, referencing the brutal murder of a 16-year-old East Jerusalem teenager by Jewish extremists in July. “It seems that for them, he is more important than the blood of my son.”

Following Arami’s death, police initially said that it was caused by an accidental fall — both the cables he was using to rappel down the face of a building snapped. But his family lobbied for police to investigate the possibility that he was murdered.

“He told me several times that he was afraid that the Arabs at the construction site would try to kill him by cutting the cables,” his wife, Moria, said, according to Israeli news site NRG.

Arami’s brother, Ohad, said that his brother was a professional with many years’ experience who always employed proper safety measures, and there was no chance the fall could have been an accident.

Family of Netanel Arami, who was a window cleaner and fell to his death from a building's 11th floor, holds a press conference on September 30, 2014. (photo credit: Flash90)
Family of Netanel Arami, a construction worker who fell to his death from a building’s 11th floor, holds a press conference on September 30, 2014. (photo credit: Flash90)

“When they are working and rappelling from high up, they are attached to two cables so that if one snaps, there is a backup cable,” Ohad Arami said. “There is no way that both cables could snap at the same time unless somebody intentionally cut them.”

Arami’s widow went as far as accusing the police of attempting to cover up the circumstances of her husband’s death.

“Maybe they didn’t have a suspect, but they knew what happened, and could’ve given [us] the details of the incident,” she told Channel 10. “They tried to cover things up, so there wouldn’t be an uprising, chaos and war.”

Arami was a father of two — a four-year-old girl and two-year-old boy. His wife, Moriah, is pregnant with the couple’s third child.

Stuart Winer contributed to this report.

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