Suspect in murder of teen: ‘I wanted to kill a Jew and be a martyr’ — report

Arafat Irfaiya, accused of brutally killing Ori Ansbacher, said to tell Shin Bet he crossed into Israel, sprinted to avoid detection by security cameras, looked for Jewish victim

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

Arafat Irfaiya, charged with the murder of Ori Ansbacher, at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on February 11, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Arafat Irfaiya, charged with the murder of Ori Ansbacher, at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on February 11, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Palestinian man suspected of brutally murdering 19-year-old Ori Ansbacher told interrogators from the Shin Bet security service that he entered Israel and looked for a Jewish victim because he wanted to be a martyr, Channel 13 news reported Monday.

“I entered Israel with a knife because I wanted to become a martyr and murder a Jew,” Arafat Irfaiya reportedly said. “I met the girl by chance.”

Irfaiya said that after he crossed the Green Line he sprinted to deliberately avoid detection by security cameras.

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Monday extended Irfaiya’s remand for an additional ten days.

Ori Ansbacher (Courtesy)

It was the first time Irfaiya appeared before cameras since his Friday arrest in the West Bank city of Ramallah. He had open scabs on his forehead, nose and below his right eye. The suspect appeared to smirk from his seat as photographers flashed their cameras before being ushered out of the courtroom.

Despite a last-minute official appeal from reporters, the judge decided to hold the session behind closed doors. Channel 12 news reported that investigators from the Shin Bet security service and Israel Police hope to indict Irfaiya, a 29-year-old Hebron resident, for murder in the context of a terrorist act, in addition to a charge of rape.

Details regarding the rape charge had previously remained under wraps due to a court-imposed gag order.

On Sunday, the Shin Bet announced that the murder was a nationalistically motivated terror attack. The intelligence agency, which has been running the investigation with assistance from 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 Irfaiya reenacted the murder in front of interrogators and “implicated himself definitively in the incident.”

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

Citing the suspect’s 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 Irfaiya had 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.

Friends and relatives attend the funeral of Ori Ansbacher, in the Jewish settlement of Tekoa, February 8, 2019 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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

On Sunday evening, Channel 13 news reported that Irfaiya was arrested in 2017 at the entrance to the Temple Mount holy site in Jerusalem armed with a large kitchen knife, and had indicated that if released, he would “come back here with a knife.”

He told his interrogators that he ultimately aspired to become a “martyr” or be incarcerated in an Israeli prison, that report said.

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