Palestinian Indicted for Murder of Israeli Woman in West Bank Forest

Military prosecution indicts Palestinian Muhammad Maruh Kabha in the December murder of Esther Horgen, who lives in a West Bank settlement

Hagar Shezaf
Hagar Shezaf
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A soldier near the scene of Esther Horgan's murder, six weeks ago.
A soldier near the scene of Esther Horgan's murder, six weeks ago.Credit: Rami Shllush
Hagar Shezaf
Hagar Shezaf

A Palestinian was indicted in a military court on Thursday for murdering a resident of a West Bank settlement in December.

The indictment filed by the military prosecution alleges that Muhammad Maruh Kabha murdered Esther Horgen, a 52-year-old mother of six, while she was jogging in Reihan Forest near her home in Tal Menashe, in the northern West Bank. The alleged motive was a desire to kill Israelis in supposed retaliation for the death from cancer of a Palestinian prisoner he met while serving a sentence in jail

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The indictment, filed in the Samaria Military Court, has six counts, including premeditated murder, conspiracy to traffic in weapons, and attempted trafficking in weapons.

According to the indictment, Kabha, 40, from the town of Tura al-Gharbiya near Jenin, planned to commit an attack on civilians about a month before Horgen's murder and considered an attack on security forces. On the morning of the murder, he allegedly went to the forest to pick mushrooms and ran into Horgen, on a path. When Horgen ran away from him, the indictment claims, he decided to kill her.

Kabha is charged with attacking Horgen with rocks while he was grabbing her hand. The indictment alleges that he kept her from escaping and beat her in the head twice with a large rock, dragged her into the trees, and hit her with a rock. Allegedly, he then hid some of her blood-drenched clothes in a nearby pit and fled. That evening, the indictment asserts, Kabha met with his cousins, Fatah Badran and Walid Badran, and told them about the murder. The two said they would help him and they stayed in Fatah's house, according to the indictment.

Esther Horgan.Credit: Courtesy of Horgan family

Badran allegedly suggested obtaining weapons to protect Kabha and shoot at security forces. Kabha spent three days in Badran’s home and left to return to his own home, the indictment states. He was arrested the next day, four days after the murder. He allegedly confessed to murdering Horgen during questioning.

Kabha has served three terms in Israeli prisons for terror-related offenses, including involvement in a shooting attack and making explosive devices.

On Wednesday, the High Court of Justice gave its permission for the demolition of his home. Supreme Court Justices Isaac Amit, Daphne Barak-Erez and Anat Baron denied a petition by Kabha’s family to halt the demolition order, which also houses his wife and three children, who are minors, as well as his parents.

Two of the justices said there was no case for interfering with the military’s decision. Amit wrote that family members’ prior knowledge for razing a home, but added: “This is not a necessary condition.”

Barak-Erez said her decision was made “in consideration that this is a measure to be taken after a particularly brutal murder was committed with a clear nationalist motive."

Horgen's family said in a statement after the indictment that incitement by the Palestinian Authority motivated the murder, calling for more aggressive actions against the PA.

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