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Shin Bet: Israeli teen's murder was 'nationalistically motivated'

Israeli forces arrest a Palestinian man suspected of murdering 19-year-old Ori Ansbacher during an operation in Ramallah
Police Spokesman
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked calls for death penalty for Palestinian suspect in Ori Ansbacher's murder

Israel's security agency announced on Sunday night that the Palestinian suspect in the murder of a 19-year-old woman near Jerusalem confessed to the crime and admitted it was "nationalistically motivated."

The man, identified earlier as Arafat Irfayia, 29, from Hebron, was arrested in Ramallah over the weekend in connection with her murder and reportedly confessed to the crime during interrogation by IDF forces.

According to the most recent Shin Bet statement, Irfayia confessed to the crime and indicated it was motivated by Palestinian nationalism.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally informed Ori Ansbacher's family on Sunday night that she was killed in an act of terror.

"This is unsurprising, but I wanted to let you know," Times of Israel quotes him as saying.

AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean

Netanyahu vowed Sunday to freeze money transfers to the Palestinian Authority in response to the murder of the brutal murder of a 19-year-old Israeli woman over the weekend.

Ansbacher was found dead with multiple stab wounds to her body in a Jerusalem forest on Thursday night, hours after she was reported missing by her family.

Four other Palestinians arrested following the discovery of Ansbacher’s lifeless body in the Ein Yael forest were released without charge, according to local reports.

Overnight Sunday, IDF forces entered the flashpoint city of Hebron in the West Bank where they mapped Irfaiya's house ahead of its possible demolition.

But Netanyahu's right-wing political rivals urged stronger deterrence, calling for the death penalty to be implemented in cases or terrorist murders and demanding that the government implement legislation passed last year to partially withhold funds to offset PA payments to families of Palestinians jailed by Israel for attacks against Israelis -- a policy critics refer to as "pay for slay".

Israel collects around $127 million a month in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports and then transfers it to the PA.

"By the end of the week, the staff-work necessary for implementing the law on deducting terrorists' salaries will be completed," Netanyahu -- who is seeking re-election in the country's upcoming April 9 general election -- told journalists at the start of a weekly cabinet meeting.

"Next Sunday I will convene the security cabinet and we will approve the necessary decision to deduct the funds. Let nobody doubt, the funds will be deducted, at the start of next week," he said.

GALI TIBBON (POOL/AFP)

After initially investigating Ansbacher’s murder as a criminal event, reports said that investigators were now examining possible a “nationalistic” motive for her killing as well as whether the attack was sexual in nature.

According to an Israeli Police statement issued Saturday evening, Irfaiya left his home in Hebron on Thursday armed with a knife and made his way to the village of Beit Jala.

“Arafat Irfaiya walked towards the forest where he noticed Ori and then attacked and murdered her."

The suspect was reportedly arrested several times in the past for entering Israel illegally and for carrying a knife.

Forensic evidence at the scene led the police to identify the suspect, Channel 12 reported.

Details of Ansbacher’s murder have been placed under gag order as the investigation continues.

“The interrogation of the suspect is ongoing and is focused in particular on the motives for the murder,” a statement from Israel’s Shin Bet security service on Saturday said.

On Saturday, the Israeli police issued a statement urging the public to refrain from spreading misinformation after rumors regarding Ansbacher’s murder, which included gruesome details of the circumstances of her death, were circulated over social media.

Calling the social media reports "groundless", the police warned that they "harm both the victim and the family’s dignity, and mislead the public."

Ansbacher, who was a National Service volunteer working in a youth treatment center, was laid to rest on Friday afternoon in the Tekoa settlement where she lived.

Local media quoted the victim's parents saying their daughter was a "holy soul seeking meaning, a sensitive soul for every person and creatures with an infinite desire to correct the world with goodness."

Around 200 demonstrators gathered in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Saturday evening to protest the murder. A similar protest was held at the entrance to Jerusalem. Crowds at both events lashed out at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for what they called a lax response to terror.

Throughout the day, hardline ministers called for retribution and urged military prosecution to seek the death penalty in the case.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan both insisted that the case be treated as a terror attack, though investigators have yet to conclude the suspect's motives.

“When a Palestinian in Israel illegally murders a Jew in the State of Israel, there is no doubt that it needs to be considered as nationalistic murder,” Erdan told Channel 13 news. “It does not matter what he says or doesn’t say in the interrogation. I hope the relevant authorities understand this and if not, we need to legislate it.”

“The military prosecution needs to ask for the death penalty,” Shaked told the same news channel. “We should not hide the truth. He killed Ori because she was a Jewish girl.”

GALI TIBBON  (AFP/File)

Israeli law already permits the death penalty in certain cases, though no one has been executed by the Jewish States since Nazi SS officer Adolf Eichmann in 1962.

A proposed law imposing the death penalty in cases of terrorism was pushed by former defense minister Avigdor Liberman before parliament dissolved in December ahead of national elections on April 9.

Netanyahu had given his approval for the bill, which would allow the court system to sentence terrorists convicted of murder to death if the majority of judges sitting on the court approve.

The bill has not passed the necessary legislative steps required for it to become law, and has been unequivocally opposed by Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman and the European Union.

Israel has a policy of deterrence in which the homes of Palestinian terrorists who carry out attacks against Israelis are demolished, often overnight.

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