Israel arrests suspect for murder of settler rabbi

Israel arrests suspect for murder of settler rabbi
Israeli forces have arrested Abdelhakim Asi in Nablus after a month-long manhunt in the West Bank, after he allegedly stabbed Itamar Ben Gal near a West Bank settlement.
3 min read
18 March, 2018
The month-long manhunt for Abdelhakim Asi came to a conclusion on Saturday night [Twitter]
Israeli forces arrested a young Palestinian suspect accuse of a stabbing attack on settler rabbi close to a West Bank settlement on 5 February.

Abdelhakim Asi, 19, was arrested on Sunday night during a raid by Israeli military and security forces, after going into hiding in the northern West Bank.

Israeli police have been hunting Asi for several weeks, accusing him of stabbing Itamar Ben Gal, 29, to death last month.

Israel's Shin Bet security agency announced the overnight arrest in a statement, adding that Palestinians who were with Assi during his arrest in Nablus were also taken for questioning.

In response to the arrest, Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Sunday: "The case has come full circle... Every terrorist should know that we will find you and hold you accountable," Arab 48 reported.

According to Israeli media, authorities knew Asi's identity just hours after he committed the attack. However, the manhunt - in which numerous homes have been raided arrests made - has lasted over a month and a half.

Asi is thought to be a Palestinian citizen of Israel and was residing in Tel Aviv prior to the attack. He has a background of drug abuse and social problems, according to media reports.

The wife of Itamar Ben Gal - who was resident of the Har Bracha settlement near Nablus - responded to the news of Asi's arrest on Sunday, by calling on Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to build more settlements.

"Our only comfort, the only thing that will prevent another murder like this is building. Establishing a city in response to the murder," Miriam Ben Gal told right-wing Israeli newspaper Arutz Sheva.

"I do not understand why the prime minister is waiting," she added. "I ask him to announce this morning the approval of the construction of the 800 housing units in Har Bracha, and thus to turn it into a city. This is our consolation and that of the Jewish people. This is the true response to Itamar's murder."

Israeli settlements are seen as illegal under international law and major obstacles to peace as they are built on occupied Palestinian territory.

Asi's arrest comes on the heels of a car ramming attack by a Palestinian near an Israeli settlement in the northern West Bank on Friday that killed two Israeli soldiers and wounded three others, according to the army.

Tensions were high after Palestinian militant group Hamas called for a day of rage on Friday to commemorate 100 days since US President Donald Trump's controversial recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

At least 31 Palestinians and four Israelis have been killed since Trump's announcement, which set off major protests in Gaza, the West Bank and across the world.

Agencies contributed to this report.