Palestinian Factions Turn Backs on Israeli Teen's Murderer Because He Raped Her

'If you want to be a hero, you don't kill an innocent woman,' jailed senior Fatah official says ■ Hamas, Islamic Jihad refrain from taking credit for murder, which Shin Bet said had 'nationalistic' motive

Ori Ansbacher.

Militant Palestinian factions, among them Hamas and Islamic Jihad, have refrained from taking credit for the murder of Ori Ansbacher because she was raped before she was killed.

Haaretz Weekly Episode 15Haaretz

The Palestinian Prisoners Club and other groups supporting jailed Palestinians have yet to send a lawyer to represent the suspect, 29-year-old Hebron resident Arafat Irfaiya. Imprisoned Fatah members have also distanced themselves from the incident and have opposed his being jailed in the wing identified with their faction. The Palestinian factions' silence is unusual, and contradicts the pattern of responses that usually follow terror attacks.

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The director of the prisoners club, Qadura Fares, told Haaretz that Irfaiya’s family has not asked his group for any legal aid. “If there will be such a request, we will consider it and send a defense lawyer to review his claims,” Fares, said. “If it turns out there really was a sexual assault, we will pass on representation. That would make the case a criminal one, as far as we’re concerned, and we object to anyone committing a criminal offense trying to pass it off as a nationalist act.” Irfaiya is currently represented by the public defense.

A senior Fatah official imprisoned in Israel told Haaretz that he condemned Irfaiya’s actions. He said that he and his colleagues have asked the Palestinian Authority not to pay Irfaiya a salary or to fund his defense. “Such behavior is totally unacceptable to us. Anyone who commits such acts is not a human being,” the senior official said. “If an Arab girl had been there, he would have done the same thing. There is nothing nationalist in his acts.”

Arafat Irfaiya in the Jerusalem District Court, February 11, 2019
Olivier Fitoussi

He said the incident was an embarrassment to the Palestinian people and sent condolences to the family. “Even if it weren’t a rape, such a murder is unacceptable,” he stressed. “The murder victim was no soldier, and it didn’t happen during wartime. If you want to be a hero, you don’t go and kill an innocent woman who went to read a book in the forest.”

The senior official said that Irfaiya will probably be jailed in the wing for Hamas prisoners, considering his family's ties to the faction. He reiterated that Fatah prisoners would not quietly accept any attempt to place him in their wing. “We will never accept such a man,” he said. “This man should be in a criminal wing and be punished for what he did to the woman. If we catch him, no one will be able to protect him from harm.”

Irfaiya, a 29-year-old resident of Hebron, confessed to raping Ansbacher and stabbing her to death in a forest next to Ein Yael in Jerusalem. The Shin Bet security service announced Monday night that Irfaiya, who previously served time for possessing a knife, committed the crime for political reasons. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu passed this message on to Ansbacher’s family.

The director of the Palestinian Prisoners Club, Qadura Fares, in his Ramallah office.
Nir Kafri

On Saturday night, the Israeli army mapped the suspect’s home in Hebron ahead of a planned demolition. The Magistrate’s Court in Jerusalem extended Irfaiya’s remand by 10 days on Monday.