BY JAMES MARLOW AND ISAAC SHERMAN
Israeli Defence Forces have intensified efforts to apprehend a terrorist who stabbed a Rabbi to death in the West Bank settlement of Ariel on Monday afternoon.
The Palestinian assailant stabbed to death Rabbi Itamar Ben-Gal in a shocking attack that has outraged Jews around the world.
The father of four was waiting at a hitchhiking post near Jerusalem Boulevard on his way to a Brit Milah circumcision ceremony for his nephew when the sickening incident occurred.
An off-duty IDF officer who witnessed the assault pursued the terrorist, striking him with his vehicle twice. But the killer fled towards the Palestinian village of Kifl Haris, the IDF said.
Security forces immediately launched a manhunt for the Arab citizen from Jaffa.
MDA and IDF paramedics attempted to resuscitate Rabbi Ben-Gal who was evacuated in critical condition to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikvah but he was pronounced dead from multiple stab wounds to his upper body.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made his intentions clear in offering condolences to the victim’s family.
“IDF and Shin Bet forces are in pursuit of the terrorist or terrorists and we will bring them to justice,” he said. “These are difficult moments, but are people come together during such times.”
Netanyahu added: “I fully trust security forces, which are doing an outstanding job of protecting us.”
Ariel Mayor Eli Shaviro appealed to Netanyahu, government ministers and Knesset parliamentarians to respond by annexing settlements in the area.
“You have the responsibility to prevent the next terror attack,” he said. “Apply sovereignty.”
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman tweeted: “The heart breaks, it’s only a matter of time before security forces will close accounts with the murderer.”
Israeli president Reuven Rivlin was “deeply saddened” by the terror attack.
“We all send comfort and strength to his widow, his four young children, his family and his students, who will never forget him,” he tweeted.
ZAKA Commander in the Shai region, Gil Bismut, confirmed details of the stabbing.
“I and my fellow ZAKA volunteers remained at the site to clear the area of human remains to ensure a full Jewish burial,” he said.
Originally from Rehovot, Rabbi Ben-Gal lived in the community of Har Bracha where some 2500 residents live on the outskirts of Shechem, also known as Nablus.
He was a teacher at the B’nei Akiva yeshiva in the Tel Aviv suburb of Givat Shmuel. Friends and family said he devoted his life to education, his students and his family.
Close friend, Yogev Cohen, said of Ben-Gal that he was a “model father,” an “amazing husband” and “idealist” who helped build the settlement Har Bracha, where he also learnt in Kollel and Yeshiva. “He was a special mix of derech eretz and Torah, a man with a heart of gold,” Cohen told Hebrew-language media, using a term for decency and morality.
“Just last week he told me how much he loved his students and loved to teach them a mix of Torah, science and values.”
Rabbi Ben-Gal was buried in Har Bracha on Tuesday morning and is the second Israeli to be killed in an attack in the West Bank in under a month.
Rabbi Raziel Shevach, 35, was fatally shot by Palestinians terrorists Rabbi in a drive-by shooting near Nablus in the northern West Bank on January 9.
On Monday, Shevach’s widow Yael indicated that the families knew each other and shared a picture on social media of her late husband with Itamar Ben-Gal with the words “I never thought I would feel like I had a sister,” she wrote. “We’ll get through this together.”
West Bank Regional Council head Yossi Dagan said the two murders were unacceptable.
“I cannot look more into the eyes of bereaved families,” Dagan commented.
“It is not enough to chase terrorists. The terror infrastructure must be dealt with.”
The killer, named Abed al-Karim Adel Assi, 19, has an Israeli mother and Palestinian father. However, investigations found Adel Assi was abandoned by his parents and went from one youth shelter to another becoming addicted to drugs and spent the last few years living on the street and in different homeless shelters for youth.
When he was 17, Adel Assi spent three months at a shelter for homeless youth aged 14-21 in Tel Aviv’s Neve Tzedek neighbourhood operated by the Shanti House, a non-profit organization helping at-risk youth. He left after staff at the shelter urged him not to visit his father in Nablus, because they were concerned he would be taken advantage of by hostile elements.
“He didn’t last here because at some point we forbad him from going to Nablus,” Halit Levy, the Shanti House’s coordinator, told Ynet. “He would go to his family in Nablus once a week, and we felt that an at-risk teenager regularly moving between Tel Aviv and Nablus, despite his blue (Israeli) ID, was dangerous.”
“We told him we were no longer willing to allow him to regularly go to Nablus, only once every few months, and with us knowing who he’s going to see, how long he’s going for, and how he was coming back,” she said, adding this eventually led Abed to leave the Shanti House.
“I don’t know what circumstances, after he left the Shanti House, eventually led him to become a terrorist and carry out this awful act,” Levy said. “It’s very sad to us. I’m sad such a teenager kills a father of four. We’re trying to help everyone, but we don’t always succeed. Unfortunately, we were not able to help Abed. He chose violence, which contradicts all of the Shanti House’s values. But this won’t discourage us from helping the next child.”
The terrorist’s Facebook page indicated that he became depressed, conflicted and radicalised over the last few months.
The Shanti House takes in over 1,500 children a year regardless of religion, race or gender. There are Jewish, Arab, Muslim, Christian, Eritrean, Ethiopian, gay and lesbian children here. Some 50,000 children have stayed at the Shanti House.
The killing brought condemnation in the United Kingdom.
Board of Deputies senior Vice President Richard Verber described the attack as a “brutal and cold blooded murder,”
“We call on the Palestinian Authority to condemn this appalling attack and to end its daily incitement of terrorism against Israeli civilians, he said.
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis tweeted: “Whilst the murder of Itamar Ben-Gal earlier today, will likely receive little attention in the international press, we will continue to grieve following each and every one of these wicked acts of terrorism. May his memory be for a blessing.”