Retired IDF officer murdered in the Jordan Valley – 4th terror attack in a month

Retired Col. Seraiah Ofer z”l, murdered in the Jordan Valley

In what is becoming an uncomfortably regular occurrence, an IDF reserve colonel was brutally murdered in his Jordan Valley home on Thursday night.

Seraiah Ofer, a retired IDF colonel in his 50s, was killed in an apparent terrorist attack outside his home in the northern Jordan Valley overnight Thursday.

Ofer’s wife, Monique Mor Ofer, managed to run out of the house, located in the West Bank vacation village of Brosh HaBika, and escape the perpetrators, whom she identified as two Palestinians.

The couple reportedly heard noises outside the house, and when Ofer went out to investigate, he was attacked by men wielding axes and crowbars.

Mor, 50, sustained light injuries while fleeing the scene. She stopped a passing car on a nearby road at approximately 1 a.m. local time, reported Ynet, and called for help. She was taken to HaEmek Medical Center in Afula by a Magen David Adom crew.

Mor’s daughter later added, after speaking with her at the hospital, that her mother had followed Ofer outside and heard voices in Arabic and saw flashlights.

She said her mother had escaped through the bushes, and that “she crawled there for two hours, with no phone, no nothing.”

The article notes the rise in number of recent terror attacks:

On Monday, two Palestinian men were arrested in connection to an October 5 terror attack in the West Bank settlement of Psagot. In that attack, a gunman infiltrated the settlement and shot a 9-year-old girl. She was lightly wounded.

In September, two IDF soldiers were killed in separate incidents. One soldier, Tomer Hazan, was murdered by a Palestinian coworker who lured him to a village near Qalqilya. A second soldier, Gal Gabriel Kobi, was killed by what the army said was a sniper shot outside the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron.

Despite the news that five Palestinians were arrested for the attack, there is fear that we are witnessing a dangerous slope in terrorism, as veteran military correspondent Ron Ben Yishai writes:

Even if both were criminal acts gone bad, the fact that the Palestinian perpetrators didn’t flee when discovered, but rather murdered or attempted to murder the Jew first encountered, says something.

The significance of this is apparently that the level of unrest in the territories has grown, as well as the motivation to kill a Jew, even if that person is not actually endangering the Palestinian thief. So beyond rage for the murder of three Israelis within a month, and the injury of a nine-year-old girl, a bigger question exists among the Israeli public: are the Palestinian people slowly dragging us down a dangerous slope towards a third intifada? Some experts have estimated that we are in the midst of a “lite intifada.” Here are some signs:

1. An increase last month in what the Shin Bet calls “popular terrorism.” There has been a jump in the number of Molotov cocktails thrown, throwing of stones with the intention of injuring, and at times shooting at passing vehicles. These cases are no longer sporadic, but rather, there is a clear trend of increase in these activities with the intent to harm. As such, a number of Israelis were injured last month, mainly by stone throwing.

2. The Shin Bet and IDF are going out on nightly operations to arrest wanted individuals, in order to thwart attacks. Some alerts are specific, while others are general, but significant in all is orientation and intent. The main goal of attacks with clear targets is the abduction of Israelis with the intent of murdering them and using their bodies as bargaining tools.

 3. Recently there have been several cases of violent resistance and at times, live fire, in response to arrest operations carried out by the IDF and Shin Bet. These cases have, for the most part, occurred in refugee camps, in Qalandiya and in Jenin. During gunfights, several Palestinians were killed by security forces’ fire. It may well be that the killing of Palestinians after a long period in which there were no Palestinian casualties raised the level of hatred and motivation to strike back.

 These are symptoms of the disease. Now we must examine where they come from. … There is no doubt that some of the unrest in the West Bank is the result of the distress currently being experienced by the Hamas movement in Gaza, but also in the West Bank.

[…]

In addition, Hamas has major trouble in Gaza … As a result of Egyptian pressure and the economic distress in which it results, Hamas is looking back to Iranian patronage, and this road passes through the West Bank. In Gaza, Hamas is afraid to act for fear of Egyptian response, but in the West Bank, Hamas can use an ancient call that always works on devout Muslims – “save Al-Aqsa.”

[…]

But Hamas is not alone. The Islamic Jihad is also receiving direct instruction from Tehran and cannot operate freely in Gaza, out of fear of an Egyptian or Israeli response, or even both together.

[…]

To all of these must be added the fact that the Palestinian security apparatuses operate erratically and at varying levels of effectiveness against terrorism, and, with this is the fact that while the PA does not incite the masses to attack, it also does not condemn the attacks or murders.

While I take issue with Ben Yishai’s leniency towards PA incitement (and his snide comparison of the Israeli right with Hamas extremists), his concern about the increase in attacks is echoed by Avi Issacharoff at the Times of Israel, who writes that there is rising concern that we are seeing a new kind of terrorism:

The suspicion, when looking at what have now been four terror attacks in the West Bank in the past month, is of a new phenomenon: Terrorism that is not carefully premeditated by an organization such as Hamas or Islamic Jihad — rather, attacks by Palestinians acting independently, bent on murdering Israelis, be they soldiers or civilians.

That was the case with the killing near the West Bank village of Qalqilya last month of off-duty soldier Tomer Hazan, whose murderer worked with him at a Bat Yam restaurant, allegedly lured him to his family’s home village, strangled him, threw his body into a well, and went home to sleep. Then came the single sniper shot that killed IDF soldier Gal Kobi while he was on duty in Hebron. And finally the apparently amateurish attack, with an improvised weapon, that lightly injured nine-year-old Noam Glick at her home in Psagot on Saturday night.

There is no known direct connection between any of these attacks, and no reason to believe that any of the assailants knew each other — which only complicates the task of the security authorities in tracking down all those responsible. Some of those involved may have no record of terrorism, and no contacts among known terrorists, weapons experts, or terror cells.

[…]

The absence of a sense of optimism about progress, continued settlement construction, and the intermittent deaths of Palestinians in clashes with the IDF all contribute to the atmosphere that produces such attacks.

An additional, critical factor is the relentless incitement against Israel in Palestinian media and social networks. The Palestinian Authority’s security forces are making almost daily arrests among the Hamas, Islamic Jihad and even Fatah ranks, confiscating weaponry, and displaying a surprising capability in the field.

Last Saturday, for instance, hundreds of PA security personnel raided the Jenin refugee camp, conducting house-to-house searches for weaponry. On Thursday, PA forces raided the home there of a prominent Hamas security prisoner, Jamal Abu al-Hajah, and attempted to arrest his son — actions unlikely to endear the PA to local residents. And yet Fatah’s Facebook pages overflow with praise for terrorists, including suicide bombers, who have murdered Israelis. Thus, the PA acts against terrorism while simultaneously encouraging it.

This confusion about the Palestinian Authority’s erratic behaviour towards terrorism, as I highlighted above, is explained at Israel Unlocked (a very worthwhile blog and resource about Israel) in their post “understanding the Palestinian Authority“:

Contrary to the author’s beliefs, the arrests have little to do with anti-terrorism or Palestinian-Israeli relations and everything to do with the PA’s desire to retain power within Palestinian society:

The PA’s leading party is Fatah.

Fatah’s rivalry with Hamas is infamous. The groups arrest each others members on a regular basis for reasons completely unrelated to Israel (e.g., here).

[…]

But what about Fatah’s arrest of Fatah members? Surely that can’t be about retaining Fatah’s power…right?

Right.

But it is about retaining power within Fatah.

Israeli Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh put out a fascinating article this week on intra-Fatah affairs. He writes:

A series of incidents over the past few weeks indicate that the Palestinian Fatah faction, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, is witnessing a sharp power struggle between some of its top leaders…

“Fatah is in need of a cleansing campaign,” [Abbas aide Azzam al-Ahmed] said. “We have given those who committed mistakes dozens of chances, but to no avail.”

The PA isn’t “acting against terrorism while simultaneously encouraging it.” It’s encouraging terrorismwhile working to consolidate its own power.

Note: There are many other Palestinian groups vying for control in Gaza and the West Bank, but Fatah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad are currently the strongest.

If you thought Middle Eastern politics was complicated, Middle Eastern terrorist politics make it all as clear as mud.

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6 Responses to Retired IDF officer murdered in the Jordan Valley – 4th terror attack in a month

  1. PeteCA says:

    very sorry to hear this. My deepest prayers for his family and friends.

    i am a little bit surprised that a retired IDF colonel would not have a weapon handy … even if it was just a pistol. perhaps he was expecting friends or workers at his home? there may be more to the story than has been reported. anyway – very sorry for the loss of a good man.

    Pete, USA

    • anneinpt says:

      Interesting point Pete. Nowhere in any of the reports did it mention that he had a gun. Perhaps he thought it was an animal outside? Or perhaps he didn’t have a gun. Contrary to most people’s expectations, Israel is not a well-armed society by American standards. You have to have a very good reason to own a gun, and pass all kinds of checks and tests every year to keep your licence. Perhaps Col. Ofer didn’t bother? Though I find that hard to believe given his former position and his place of residence.

      It could also be that he was wary of shooting. In Israel the self-defense laws are very strict and it’s not uncommon to find yourself at the police or in court for shooting an intruder. Even if you’re found innocent people think twice before firing.

  2. peteca1 says:

    Hi Anne. Thanks for thefeedback. Your comments were a bit surprising. I honestly did not realize that Israel is quite so strict with personal ownership of weapons. When we see media images of public places in Israel, quite often we see guards and soldiers (male and female) who are very well armed. So I always assumed that same thing was true on a personal level in Israel. You must have a very efficient system of police response. Still, I wonder how it would work on a kibbutz – especially a farm in a rural area close to Israel’s borders. There must be some sort of security team within the kibbutz itself … is this true? Or perhaps you have a very good system of communications, and local police come immediately.
    Pete, USA

    • anneinpt says:

      Pete, there’s a difference between the armed forces and private citizens. Soldiers and other security personnel all have weapons, and nearly all of them take them home. Since “home” is practically on the front lines anyway, one sees very many armed soldiers all over the place in Israel.

      There are also civilian security guards who are armed, e.g. at entrances to malls or other public spaces, plus we have armed escorts who go on school and youth club trips.

      In the rest of civilian life, you need a very good reason to possess a weapon: you live in a settlement (and not always then) or in a border area, or your job requires you to carry (e.g. security guard, private eye). To get a licence you have to have a thorough background check by the police and go through a training course before you get your licence. This licence and the training course must be renewed every year.

      With all that said, it would seem obvious that the murdered officer would have had a gun at home, both because of his previous life in the army as a senior commander and because of the isolated nature of his home. Perhaps he just rushed out in the heat of the moment? Or perhaps he didn’t have time to draw his gun because he was attacked immediately? None of that has been made public.

      You are correct that kibbutzim, as well as settlements and other small villages and isolated towns have local security teams that constantly patrol the perimeters, and they all have radio contact with the local IDF outpost and/or police. Many of these teams are comprised of IDF guards together with a rota of local residents, or are solely comprised of local residents. In my son’s settlement he has to do guard duty every few weeks, though at my daughter’s place they have a private security firm, perhaps augmented occasionally by locals.

      All of which makes it very strange that Col. Ofer didn’t shoot back, and the intruders weren’t spotted earlier. I wonder if any of this will come out in an investigation.

      As for our efficient police force – ha ha ha! At least at the level of crime solving I don’t have a huge amount of faith in them, though I don’t think they’re any worse than other police forces around the world. They also have too much on their plate, having to contend with terrorism as well, which they share with the army.

  3. Thanks for the mention!

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