Palestinian Suspect in Fatal Stabbing Suffered From Depression, Wasn't Politically Active, Brother Says

46-year-old Khalil Dweikat 'maybe acted without knowing what he was doing,' his brother tells Haaretz a day after Rabbi Shai Ohayon's killing in central Israel

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The site of the stabbing attack at Segula junction, August 26, 2020.
The site of the stabbing attack at Segula junction, August 26, 2020.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

A Palestinian man suspected in fatal stabbing in central Israel on Wednesday has been suffering from depression for four years and has been in treatment, his brother told Haaretz on Thursday, stressing he has never been politically active.

A magistrate's court extended the detention of suspect Khalil Dweikat by five days. Israeli forces have already mapped out the home of Dweikat, 46, a father of six from Rujeib, a village near Nablus, readying it for possible demolition for the crime.

Family members are expected to be questioned as the Shin Bet seeks possible accomplices in the killing of Israeli student and Rabbi Shai Ohayon in Petah Tikva.

Dweikat’s brother, Khaled, told Haaretz that he has been in treatment at a West Bank clinic, adding Khalil had been on medication for his psychological problems, but may have stopped taking them recently.

Shai Ohayon.Credit: Courtesy of the Ohayon family

The suspect is a construction worker who had been previously employed in Nablus. He was issued a work permit last month to do construction work in Israel.

“He has six daughters, the eldest is 20, and they are the most important things in his life,” Dweikat’s brother said. “I once went with him to Jordan and in the middle of the night he woke up crying worried for his daughters. He said he had to know what was happening with them right away.”

“He’s a man who goes to work and comes home and that’s it," the suspect's brother said. "He’s a quiet man and doesn’t even talk about these issues." Asked whether he ever heard him saying "anything extreme" about Israel or Israelis, the brother denied ever hearing him say anything of the sort.

The suspect’s wife is unemployed and his brother said that Khalil also missed work at times when he was depressed. “We were very surprised, as was everyone who knows him. We still don’t believe it,” the suspect’s brother said. “Maybe he acted without knowing what he was doing.”

Khaled said that two of their brothers had brought documentation of their Dweikat's psychological issues to Shin Bet investigators.

Shin Bet agents began questioning Dweikat on Wednesday about his version of events.

Israeli army forces inspect the Dweikat's home in the West Bank ahead of its demolition, August 27, 2020.Credit: IDF spokesperson

Following the attack, the Shin Bet had suspected that Dweikat was psychologically unstable due to his behavior at the scene of the crime. The Shin Bet did not believe he had received an official diagnosis because he had been able to obtain a work permit. The Shin Bet will reexamine Dweikat's psychological status and the possibility that his condition had deteriorated since he had received the work permit.

Ohayon, 39, a father of four, was buried overnight Wednesday in the Segula cemetery after his family agreed to an autopsy. He had studied at a yeshiva in Kfar Sava. He took a bus to the Segula junction and was stabbed after getting off the bus. Dweikat tried to flee the scene, but was stopped by a passerby with a club in his hand. Police later caught him and found a long knife in his possession.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: ‘We will act to destroy the terrorist’s home and administer the most severe punishment.”

Last week a Palestinian man from Jenin was arrested on suspicion of stabbing an Israeli in Rosh Ha’ayin a few days earlier with supposedly nationalistic motives. The victim was seriously wounded, and after testifying that the assailant had shouted at him in Arabic, the incident is being investigated as a possible terrorist attack. Police initially told the media they were looking into the possibility that the stabbing had been the result of a brawl. The Shin Bet said the suspect had no permit to enter Israel. Three other suspects have been arrested as accomplices.

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