Suspected terrorist’s mother calls on him to turn himself in
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Suspected terrorist’s mother calls on him to turn himself in

Haifa resident says her son, an Israeli citizen who stabbed a rabbi to death, had no right to harm anyone, 'has destroyed himself'

Abed al-Karim Assi, the terrorist who stabbed to death Itamar Ben-Gal at the Ariel Junction on February 5, 2018. (Courtesy)
Abed al-Karim Assi, the terrorist who stabbed to death Itamar Ben-Gal at the Ariel Junction on February 5, 2018. (Courtesy)

The mother of a man wanted for the fatal stabbing of an Israeli rabbi in a West Bank terror attack said Tuesday that he should give himself up and that the killing does not help anyone.

Nineteen-year-old Abed al-Karim Assi managed to evade capture following Monday’s attack at the entrance to the Ariel settlement, even after an IDF officer hit him with his car while in pursuit. Assi, who holds a blue Israeli identity card, indicating residence in Israel, has been on the run since.

His victim was Rabbi Itamar Ben-Gal, 29, a father of four from the nearby settlement of Har Bracha.

Assi’s mother spoke with journalists on the condition of anonymity from her home in the northern Israel port city of Haifa, condemning her son’s actions and calling on him to surrender to Israeli security forces. She said police investigators had informed her they believe Assi carried out the attack. She had no idea where he might be hiding, she said.

The woman, said to be in her 40s, said, “My son has no right to harm anyone. I condemn his actions and call on him to give himself up because what he did doesn’t help anyone. On the contrary, he destroyed himself and everything.”

Assi used his blue Israeli ID card to spend time on both sides of the Green Line. His father lives in Nablus in the West Bank.

Itamar Ben-Gal, who was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist on February 5, 2018, pictured with his wife and family. (Courtesy)

His mother said her son had had a troubled past, beginning when he taken from her by social services 40 days after he was born, the Ynet news site reported. She next saw him when he was 16 and has had intermittent contact with him in the years that followed.

Assi’s past included drug addiction and time spent living on the streets. All attempts to help him rehabilitate failed, said the woman, noting that her own marital problems had merited assistance from welfare groups.

The Welfare Ministry released a statement Monday evening saying Assi “was known to social services.”

“Over the years, attempts were made to help the young man, who was abandoned by his parents,” the statement said, adding that the 19-year-old had more than once left his housing and rehabilitation programs.

Assi had also received assistance from the Shanti Home in Tel Aviv for at-risk youth, where he lived for a short period in 2016. He left after three months, when administrators told him he could no longer make weekly his visits to his family in Nablus due to concerns his travels between Israel and the West Bank might be exploited by terror groups.

On Tuesday, one social worker from Assi’s past described him to the Hadashot television news network as “a young man in crisis,” but said he never expressed any hatred towards Jews or Israelis.

“His mother didn’t acknowledge him from a young age, and the father lives in Nablus and also didn’t want to acknowledge him [as a son],” the social worker said

Assi was “loved by staff and other youth” at the troubled-youth program, he said, adding that he was “shocked” to learn he was named as the terrorist.

Zaka volunteers at the scene of a terror attack near the entrance to Ariel, in the West Bank on February 5, 2018. (Ben Dori/Flash90)

“He never said anything nationalistic. He had no political interests at all, and never expressed any hatred toward us [Jews],” he adds.

It wasn’t immediately clear how Assi was identified as the suspect in the stabbing, although CCTV footage from the scene showed a man with similar facial features.

Video showed the terrorist crossing a road toward Ben-Gal, who was standing in front of a bus stop, and stabbing him. Ben-Gal then fled across the street with the stabber in pursuit.

Medics tried to resuscitate Ben-Gal, who was stabbed three times in the chest. He was taken to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikvah, but succumbed to his wounds.

He was buried in the Har Bracha settlement Tuesday.

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