Suspected accomplices arrested in murder of Israeli man

Palestinians taken in for questioning over Reuven Schmerling’s killing; security forces find illegal weapons in overnight sweeps, including a pistol in a plush toy

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A pistol and ammunition hidden inside a toy dog found by security forces in the West Bank overnight October 31, 2017. (IDF spokesperson)
A pistol and ammunition hidden inside a toy dog found by security forces in the West Bank overnight October 31, 2017. (IDF spokesperson)

Security forces operating in the West Bank overnight Tuesday arrested suspected accomplices in the deadly stabbing earlier this month of an Israeli man in the Arab Israeli town of Kafr Qassem, the military said.

A joint IDF and Border Police operation nabbed the suspects in the town of Qabatiya, home to the two Palestinian men indicted for the slaying of Reuven Schmerling, the IDF said in a statement Wednesday morning. The army did not say how many suspects it detained in connection with the murder.

On Sunday, Youssef Khaled Mustafa Kamil, 20, and Muhammad Ziad Abu al-Rub, 19, were indicted for premeditated murder and entering Israel illegally in a Central District court for the killing.

Schmerling’s body was discovered by police on October 4 near his coal storage unit in Kafr Qassem’s industrial zone. He had been stabbed dozens of times.

Reuven Schmerling, a resident of the West Bank settlement of Elkana, who was murdered and his body discovered in a storage facility in the Israeli Arab town of Kafr Qassem, October 4, 2017. (Courtesy)

It was initially unclear if the murder was a terror attack, but in the days that followed the Shin Bet announced that it was believed to have been nationalistically motivated. According to the indictment, the suspects told interrogators they had carried out the murder to “avenge” their friend, who had been killed while attempting to carry out a stabbing attack in 2015.

In all, security forces arrested 17 suspects in the West Bank overnight, the IDF statement said. Thirteen are suspected of involvement in “popular terrorism,” a catchall term used by the military to denote rock and Molotov cocktail attacks and violent rioting.

In the al-Am’ari refugee camp, soldiers arrested three suspected Hamas operatives and confiscated NIS 50,000 ($14,200) it said was intended to fund terrorism in the West Bank.

During a search for illegal weapons in the villages of Umm Salamuna, south of Jerusalem, and Shuweika, in the northern West Bank, an improvised weapon was found, as well as a small pistol hidden inside a plush dog.

Security forces also escorted some 1,000 Jewish worshipers to the Joseph’s Tomb in the city of Nablus for prayers, the statement said.

On an almost monthly basis, the army escorts Jewish, and occasionally Christian, worshipers to the shrine. Israelis are forbidden from visiting the site without the military’s permission. In the past, Nablus residents have attacked the groups visiting the site with rocks, Molotov cocktails and rifle fire.

In October 2015, Palestinian rioters set fire to the holy site. It was restored and reopened a few weeks later.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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