Jerusalem court extends arrest of Palestinian suspected of murder of Israeli teen

A district court has extended by 10 days the arrest of the Palestinian man suspected of the murder and rape of Ori Ansbacher, who implicated himself during the Shin Bet security service investigation. 

On Sunday, 29-year-old Arafat Irfaiya reenacted the crime at the scene of the murder in the Jerusalem Forest, showing interrogators where he found Ansbacher in the forest.

Irgaiya is thought to have acted out of “nationalistic” motives, Shin Bet said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the Ansbacher family home in the West Bank settlement of Tekoa and updated her relatives on the Shin Bet’s findings.

Analysis: Swift operation led to capture of Israeli teen’s suspected murderer, who likely acted alone

In the reenactment, Irfaiya demonstrated where he saw Ansbacher sitting on a chair in the woods, sexually assaulted her and then killed her. Police spotted signs of struggle on the ground at the crime scene.

On Saturday night, the Israeli army mapped the suspect’s home in Hebron ahead of a planned demolition.

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Ansbacher was found naked with stab wounds to her chest at Ein Yael on Thursday, southwest of Jerusalem. Irfaiya was arrested Saturday in a joint operation by the Israeli army, the Shin Bet and the Israel Border Police’s counter-terrorism unit (Yamam) near Ramallah, following intelligence security forces received. According to a security source, he is affiliated with Hamas.

The Shin Bet said Irfaiya left his house on Thursday with a knife in his possession and made his way toward the Palestinian West Bank town of Beit Jala. He walked in the direction of a nearby forest, where he spotted Ansbacher and proceeded to assault her.

Ori Ansbacher.

The Shin Bet also revealed that during the extensive operation to locate Irfaiya, he hid in a mosque and later in a nearby abandoned building in Ramallah, where an Israeli SWAT team finally apprehended him. The knife he alledgedly used in the murder was found during the arrest.

Irfaiya has not been allowed to consult with an attorney, and is said to be cooperating in the investigation.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara Netanyahu, visit the Ansbacher family in Tekoa, West Bank, February 10, 2019.
Kobi Gideon / GPO

Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, have so far failed to respond to the murder. The silence on their part is unusual, and contradicts the pattern of responses that usually follow terror attacks.

Security officials say the Israel Police and Shin Bet are familiar with Irfaiya due to his inciting comments and criminal record. In 2009, he was arrested for possession of a knife and imprisoned for three months. 

The scene were Ansbacher's body was found, Ein Yael, February 7, 2019.
Mahmoud Illean/AP

Channel 13 News reported on Sunday evening that Irfaiya was stopped at the entrance to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City in March 2017 with a 12-centimeter knife on his person. When first asked if he was carrying a knife, he denied, but later withdrew it from his pocket. “I didn’t plan on hurting anyone, the goal was to get caught,” he later told police investigators. 

During another investigation, Irfaiya said he would do it again. “I’ll buy another knife and I’ll come here again to go to jail or become a martyr,” he said. In his verdict, the judge ruled that it seemed Irfaiya had attempted suicide in the past. “The suspect planned to enter Israel with a knife, less with the goal of getting caught and more with the goal of becoming a martyr through getting shot by security forces,” wrote the judge, who sentenced Irfaiya to six months in prison.