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Thousands march to honor Israeli woman murdered in suspected terror attack

Samaria Regional Council chairman calls on PM to announce new construction in Tal Menashe, the West Bank settlement where Esther Horgen lived

A person runs with an Israeli flag in the Reihan forest near Tal Menashe in the West Bank where Esther Horgen was found dead in suspected terror attack, Dec. 21, 2020. (Flash 90/Meir Vaknin)
A person runs with an Israeli flag in the Reihan forest near Tal Menashe in the West Bank where Esther Horgen was found dead in suspected terror attack, Dec. 21, 2020. (Flash 90/Meir Vaknin)

Thousands of people took part in a march on Friday in memory of an Israeli woman murdered in a suspected terror attack while out on a run earlier this week in the Reihan forest near her home in the West Bank settlement of Tal Menashe.

The march took place in the forest where Esther Horgen, 52, a mother of six, was killed on Sunday. Her body was found in the early hours of Monday, having apparently been violently murdered. Horgen had gone out for an afternoon run and did not return, whereupon her husband, Benjamin, notified the police.

Samaria Regional Council Chairman Yossi Dagan called on Friday for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to greenlight new housing construction in the settlement as a response to the murder.

“We call on the prime minister to announce on Sunday that construction in Tal Menashe will be doubled as a Zionist response to the killing. We will not stop marching,” Dagan was quoted by Ynet as saying at the gathering.

Dagan said earlier this week that the proper response to Horgen’s death was to “strengthen the settlement of Samaria,” referring to the northern West Bank.

Esther Horgen, 52, was found dead in the northern West Bank in a suspected terror attack on December 20, 2020. (Courtesy)

The murder suspect, a Palestinian man in his 30s, was arrested on Thursday by Israeli security forces and his West Bank home was mapped in preparation for its potential future demolition.

Israeli authorities often take punitive action such as home demolitions even before a conviction in cases of terrorist attacks. Jerusalem defends the practice of razing the family home of attackers as a deterrent against future assaults and officials have argued that speed is essential, claiming that the deterrent factor degrades over time. Over the years, a number of Israeli defense officials have questioned the efficacy of the practice and human rights activists have denounced it as unfair collective punishment.

The IDF released a video of troops operating at the suspect’s house in the village of Tura, near Jenin, on Thursday.

A photo released by the Israel Defense Forces on December 24, 2020, shows soldiers in the West Bank detaining a suspect in the suspected murder of Israeli woman Esther Horgen. (Israel Defense Forces)

Palestinian media has identified the suspect as a 36-year-old man from Tura, a town in the Jenin governorate, which is about a 2.5-kilometer drive from Tal Menashe. The reports further indicated that he had served time in an Israeli prison for security offenses. The Times of Israel confirmed the detainee’s arrest and prior jail time, but the prisoner’s identity remains under a gag order.

According to Channel 13 news, the interrogation of the suspect revealed he was not a member of a terror group and had waited in the forest to attack any Israeli who passed by. The suspect snuck up on Horgen, striking her several times in the head before hiding her body, the report said.

On Friday, the suspect was taken to the murder scene and reenacted the killing, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

The military has said additional suspected accomplices have ben detained for questioning, without specifying how many.

Esther’s husband hailed the news of the suspect’s arrest.

“We of course commend [the security forces]. I was sure it was going to happen sooner or later,” Benjamin Horgen said in a statement. “They did the job in a terrific way, and we trust the security forces and the courts, and of course expect justice to be served to the fullest with the despicable murderer.”

Horgen’s murder sparked several days of tension in the West Bank. On Monday night, dozens of settlers marched through Huwara, a Palestinian village close to Nablus, in response to the murder. According to Hebrew media reports, 13 allegations that settlers threw stones at Palestinians were reported on Tuesday alone.

Tensions also rose after the death of Ahuvia Sandak, a 16-year-old from the settlement of Bat Ayin, who was killed in a car crash Monday when he and others tried to flee police after allegedly throwing rocks at Palestinians in the central West Bank. The far-right Honenu legal aid organization, which often defends hilltop youth, accused the police of ramming into Sandak’s car and flipping it over.

Sandak’s death triggered days of ultra-nationalist settler demonstrations outside the Israel Police’s Jerusalem headquarters.

The policemen involved in the deadly pursuit were summoned to the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Affairs Department on Thursday for interrogation.

Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report.

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