U.S.-born Jewish terrorist suspected of series of attacks over past 12 years
Despite finding weapons and explosives at Yaakov Tytell's home, police have yet to find accomplices.
The authorities have arrested a resident of the West Bank settlement of Shvut Rachel for suspected murder and a role in a string of murder plots, according to details of an investigation revealed Sunday after a gag order was lifted.
Yaakov (Jack) Tytell, who was arrested last month, is suspected of involvement in the murder of two Palestinians and the rigging of a bomb that seriously injured a boy from a Messianic Jewish family in Ariel. He was allegedly involved in two other bombings, which lightly injured Prof. Zeev Sternhell and a Palestinian. The police say Teitel has confessed to these acts.
Some of his actions were allegedly motivated by hatred for gays and lesbians; Tytell was also questioned about possible involvement in the murder of two people at a gay youth club in Tel Aviv last August. He initially claimed responsibility for those murders, but investigators say he did not commit them.
Tytell, 36, moved to Israel from the United States nine years ago. He and his wife Rivka, who married in Israel, have four children. The police detained Mrs. Tytell for questioning, but she exercised her right to remain silent.
Her husband had been involved in the past with the extreme right wing, but he says he carried out his attacks alone and no one else knew about them, according to investigators. The Shin Bet security service and police are still examining this claim, but have so far not discovered accomplices.
Police found many weapons and explosives at his home and another concealed location.
Tytell was arrested on October 7 in the ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof after posting signs around town praising the attack on the Tel Aviv gay center. He was apprehended in possession of a loaded gun.
He was remanded and interrogated for about three weeks without being allowed to see a lawyer, a step that was approved by various courts, including the High Court of Justice.
A native of Florida
Tytell was born in Florida and lived in Israel for extended periods in the 1990s. He came to Israel in 1997, he said, to take revenge on Palestinians for suicide attacks that decade. He told investigators that in 1997 he murdered a Palestinian taxi driver in East Jerusalem.
A few months later, he allegedly murdered another Palestinian near the settlement of Carmel in the South Hebron Hills. He said that in both murders he used a gun he had taken apart and smuggled aboard his British Airways flight to Israel.
Tytell said he hid the gun at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. Police searched the area with Tytell but did not find the gun. Shortly after the second murder, Tytell returned to the United States, where he remained for three years.
During that time, he had several run-ins with the law. When he returned to Israel he was questioned based on an intelligence tip by the Shin Bet and police on the Carmel murder; he denied involvement.
Despite his arrest, he obtained a gun license in Israel; he also had six rifles and three pistols, which he allegedly smuggled into Israel from the United States in a shipping container.
Police found the weapons buried in his yard in Shvut Rachel in what they said was "excellent" condition. One pistol was buried at the nearby outpost of Adei-Ad. Tytell reportedly said his main stockpile had been discovered and he had to go into hiding.
Tytell allegedly maintained a room in his home where he experimented with explosive charges. The police said he became proficient at making bombs. Tytell, however, has never served in the Israel Defense Forces or the U.S. military, as some media outlets had reported.
According to the Shin Bet, Tytell placed four improvised anti-personnel mines near the Arab Israeli town of Abu Ghosh near Jerusalem. They say in March 2003 he placed a bomb near the home of a Palestinian in the village of Sajur near Ramallah, and in 2004 placed bottles of poison-laced juice in a Palestinian village near the settlement of Eli. No one was injured in those cases.
Tytell reportedly told the police that in 1997 he stabbed an Arab in Jerusalem's Independence Park after he suspected that the man was offering him sex.
On November 2, 2006, Tytell allegedly embarked on a series of attacks to deter police from providing security for the Gay Pride Parade that was to be held in Jerusalem. He allegedly placed an improvised but potentially lethal explosive charge at the police station in Eli, which was found by a police sapper.
Tytell told the police that on April 20, 2007, he placed a bomb bear the monastery at Beit Jimal near Beit Shemesh, which injured a Palestinian tractor driver because he "heard that the monks there were enticing Jewish children with candy."
On May 15 that year he allegedly placed a bomb that exploded near a police car in Jerusalem, and a month later he set off another explosive charge near a patrol car in the capital. There were no injuries in those cases.
On March 20, 2008, Tytell allegedly put an explosive charge in Purim candy he placed near the home of the Ortiz family in Ariel. A 15-year-old boy was seriously injured in the attack. Tytell reportedly said the family were "missionaries who intended to entrap weak Jews."
On September 25, 2008, Tytell allegedly struck for the last time, with the bomb outside the front door of Sternhell's house.
The last two attacks brought the police closer to Tytell. They said the breakthrough came in March 2008 when a security camera outside the Ortiz home caught Tytell climbing the staircase and putting the explosive device down. Tytell apparently knew of the camera and covered his face, but the police were still able to identify him.
After the attack on Sternhell, the commander of the police's West Bank Central Unit, Chief Superintendent Eli Makmal, suspected links with other cases. The Shin Bet profiled the suspect as an American who hated various groups. DNA was also found at the scene of the attack on Sternhell. By the end of August this year the police suspected Tytell and began 24-hour surveillance.
A senior Shin Bet official said Sunday that although Tytell had been under surveillance, he was very careful about his activities, which made it hard to collect evidence against him. He did not commit any other attacks during the surveillance, the police say.
Yesha Council condemns attacks
"Acts of the kind allegedly committed by Yaakov Tytell are grave, prohibited and unacceptable. The security forces should be congratulated for discovering him," Danny Dayan, chairman of the Yesha Council of settlements, said Sunday.
"Any person of conscience in Israel must rise up in indignation against such acts, as well as against any despicable attempt to use them to gain political capital by blaming an entire community that is not connected - and is in fact vehemently opposed - to such actions," Dayan added.
Ne'emanei Torah Va'Avodah, a liberal religious-Zionist movement, said that it "condemns any kind of violence. There is no justification for these heinous acts in the Torah, which espouses kindness and peace. However, we ask that people avoid pointing fingers and casting blame on an entire community because of the acts of one person."
Said radical right-wing activist Itamar Ben Gvir: "I don't support violence, certainly not against Jews, but people like [Prof. Zeev] Sternhell need to take a good look at themselves. His statements and recommendations to Arabs to attack 'only' settlers constitute a provocation that has led to violence."