Gantz: We won't allow human life being treated as cheap

Mother of six murdered in West Bank, in what police believe was terror attack

Body of Esther Horgen found in forest after she went for a run Sunday afternoon and didn’t return home; police say her body bore signs of violence; no arrests made

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

An Israeli woman in her 50s was found dead in a northern West Bank forest in the early hours of Monday after she went for a run on her own a day earlier, with authorities investigating the case as a suspected terror attack.

Police said in a statement that there were signs of violence to her body and that the woman’s death was considered a suspected murder. The Shin Bet security service was also taking part in the investigation.

The woman was later identified as Esther Horgen, 52, of the Tal Menashe settlement, a mother of six.

The police and Shin Bet were “increasingly convinced” that the killing was terror-related, security officials said Monday afternoon, though the police officially said that “all directions are being investigated.” The Shin Bet declined to officially comment on the matter.

The head of the Samaria Regional Council, Yossi Dagan, said Horgen was killed with a large rock.

There were no initial reports of any arrests. Police requested and received a court-issued gag order on Monday morning, barring media outlets from identifying the identities of any suspects or any other details of the investigation.

Despite the gag order, security officials told reporters that there was growing evidence to indicate that this was a nationalistically-based crime, though it appeared unlikely to have been carried out by a well-trained, established terrorist group, given the brutal and unmethodical manner in which Horgen was killed. The officials said that investigators were looking into the possibility that the suspected terrorist was an Arab-Israeli from the nearby Wadi Ara area.

Forensics and police officers at the scene where Esther Horgen was found dead in a forest in the northern West Bank, December 21, 2020 (Meir Vaknin/Flash90)

Horgen had gone for a run on Sunday afternoon but never returned, whereupon her husband called the police.

She was seen leaving her settlement on security cameras positioned along the gate to the community.

Her body was found at around 2 a.m. at the Reihan forest in the northern West Bank. Paramedics declared her dead at the scene.

“Police and crime scene investigators were called to the scene and have begun collecting evidence,” police said.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz issued a statement in which he offered his condolences and said security forces were working to track down the killer.

“I share in the deep sorrow of the Horgen family following the heinous murder of Esther,” Gantz said. “Security forces are already working to get their hands on the heinous killer. We will never accept a reality in which human lives are cheapened.”

President Reuven Rivlin tweeted that it was a “difficult and heartbreaking morning with the news of the cruel murder of Esther Horgen, who left her home and never returned to it.” He expressed confidence that the murder would be located and brought to justice.

Although investigators have not declared the woman’s death a terror attack, Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen tweeted: “We must completely destroy the house from which the terrorist came, in order to deter the next terrorist from committing another crime.”

Police at the scene where Esther Horgen’s body was found in the northern West Bank, December 21, 2020. (Israel Police)

Yamina leader MK Naftali Bennett said in a statement he was “shocked” at what he described as the “brutal murder.”

“It is inconceivable that a woman who goes out for a routine sports activity does not return home, does not return to her children,” Bennett said. “I’m sure our security forces will soon find the heinous killer.”

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