Israel says 1 suspect killed, 2nd captured, 3rd being hunted

Confusion over who died in Jenin; Hamas says suspect in rabbi’s killing a martyr

Initially reported dead in Jenin firefight, Ahmad Nassar Jarrar, 22, said to be on the run; older man with similar name now said killed overnight

Dov Lieber is a former Times of Israel Arab affairs correspondent.

Illustrative: Palestinians clash with IDF soldiers in the West Bank city of Jenin, January 18, 2018. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)
Illustrative: Palestinians clash with IDF soldiers in the West Bank city of Jenin, January 18, 2018. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

Confusion on Thursday surrounded the identity of an alleged Palestinian terrorist killed by Israeli security forces in the West Bank town of Jenin overnight.

Israel said its forces killed a man suspected of involvement in the deadly West Bank shooting of Raziel Shevach, but did not name the man.

The Palestinian heath ministry initially named him as Ahmad Nassar Jarrar, 22, at which point the Hamas terror group said he was part of its military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, and mourned him as a “martyr”: “We mourn the Qassam fighter Ahmad Nassar Jarrar, who was martyred in a heroic battle for the Qassam Brigades,” the terror group’s Jenin faction wrote in a statement.

Hours later, however, the Palestinian health ministry said it had been mistaken, and that a different man, older and with a similar name, had been killed. It named him as Ahmad Ismail Muhammad Jarrar, 31.

Israeli forces confirmed only that a Palestinian suspect in the deadly January 9 terrorist attack was shot dead, and did not name him. The Shin Bet security service also declined to identify the slain Palestinian. Unconfirmed Hebrew media reports said the younger Jarrar was the alleged leader of the terror cell, and that the older Jarrar was another of the suspects.

The family of the younger Jarrar released a statement, published by the Hamas-linked news site Palinfo, saying their son was still alive. The relatives claimed Israel had planted false information in order to draw him out of hiding.

In an interview circulating on Palestinian social media, the younger Jarrar’s mother said Israeli forces came to the house and ordered her son to exit. But he had left the house half an hour earlier, she said. “If he was martyred, good for him,” the mother said of her son.

During the Jenin operation, Israeli forces killed one Palestinian suspect in the terrorist attack on Shevach and captured another, adding that a third was still at large, a Border Police spokesperson told The Times of Israel. The spokesperson did not say whether the escaped suspect was the younger Jarrar.

Two Israeli officers were injured in the raid, one of them seriously.

During the operation, the army said a violent riot broke out in the northern West Bank city. Palestinians hurled IEDs, rocks and fired at the forces, who responded with riot-dispersal measures, including live fire, the army said in a statement.

Rabbi Raziel Shevach with his family, in an undated photo (Courtesy of the family)

“The Jenin cell is not the first nor will it be the last. The role of the criminals of the security coordination [the Palestinian Authority] will not succeed in preventing the resistance from confronting [US President Donald] Trump’s decision and from protecting Jerusalem,” said Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri in a statement on Thursday.

Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on December 6, angering Palestinians who want the city as a capital for their future state.

Israeli security forces carry out raids in the West Bank city of Jenin in pursuit of the Palestinian killers of Israeli rabbi Raziel Shevach on January 18, 2018 (Israel Police)

According to Hamas, the 22-year-old Jarrar, who evaded arrest, is the son of Nassar Jarrar, who was a senior Hamas commander in the West Bank and leader of the terror group’s forces in Jenin before being killed by Israeli troops in 2002.

The father, born in 1958, was an early pioneer of Islamist-inspired terrorism against Israelis. He was imprisoned in 1978 after throwing a Molotov cocktail at an Israeli bus in Jenin. He was released in 1988 and rearrested in 1994 for planning one of Hamas’s first suicide bombings on a bus in Hadera, in which six Israelis were killed and 30 were wounded.

After he was released from prison in 1998, Jarrar became a senior commander of Hamas’s forces during the Second Intifada of the early 2000s, which saw thousands of Israelis killed in terror attacks.

In 2001, Jarrar lost both his legs and an arm while preparing a bomb. Israeli forces killed him in 2002 by shelling his hideout in Jenin.

At the time of his death, Jarrar was said to have been planning terror attacks at the Tel Hashomer Hospital in Tel Aviv and a high-rise building.

Israeli forces have been carrying out relentless searches for the killers of Shevach. The IDF believes the attack was carried out by a cell comprising at least two terrorists.

In a rare move, the Hamas terrorist group’s military wing had released a statement praising the attack earlier this month, calling it “heroic” and a sign of future attacks to come, though the organization did not immediately take responsibility for the shooting.

“The attack outside Nablus is the first real response to show the leaders of the enemies and those that are behind them (the United States), that things that you fear — are coming,” Hamas said in a statement earlier this month.

Shortly before 8 p.m. on January 9, 35-year-old Shevach was driving in his car on the highway near his home in the Havat Gilad outpost when shots were fired at him from a passing car. Shevach was shot in the neck, but managed to call his wife and tell her to call an ambulance.

He died of his injuries at a Kfar Saba hospital after receiving initial treatment by medics at the scene of the attack, the Havat Gilad Junction. Medics said he suffered a gunshot wound to his upper body and his condition deteriorated as he was taken to the hospital.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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