Security forces arrested five Palestinians on Friday on suspicion of involvement in the murder of a former senior IDF officer in the Jordan Valley, and kept them in custody over the weekend.
Men carrying metal bars and axes set upon Col. (res.) Sraya “Yaya” Ofer when he stepped outside his home in Brosh Habika, according to his wife, Monique, who escaped.
An army spokeswoman said on Saturday that she could not disclose details of the investigation at this stage. One security source confirmed to The Jerusalem Post that the questioning of the suspects had continued throughout the weekend.
Investigators said on Friday it was likely a terrorist attack, though other motives had not been ruled out.
The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) arrested the five men within 24 hours of the murder.
Ofer was killed 40 years to the day after his brother’s death.
Combat pilot Yitzhak Ofer was shot down in his helicopter over the Golan Heights on October 11, 1973, during the Yom Kippur War.
From her hospital bed at Emek Medical Center in Afula, Monique Ofer said she and her husband, both in their 50s, had heard noises, including dogs barking, outside their home.
Sraya Ofer went to investigate, and two men attacked him, she said. She ran for her life, and signaled to a passing vehicle on Route 90. From the car, she contacted emergency services.
“How did they manage to do that to Yaya?” Ofer cried from her hospital bed. “They surprised him.”
Monique Ofer told Channel 10, “I simply can’t believe it. It didn’t happen. He was an incredible man. I feel like I’ve lost the most precious thing in my life.”
Magen David Adom spokesman Zaki Heller said paramedics in the northern Jordan Valley had responded to a call about a serious assault just before one a.m. on Friday morning. They found a woman in her 50s sitting in a vehicle with light injuries to her limbs, and evacuated her to the hospital.
At the same time, IDF medics entered the property and tried to resuscitate her husband.
Judea and Samaria police said on Saturday night that they had not ruled out a criminal motive for the attack, and that since Friday morning, questions had arisen as to whether the murder may have been linked to incidents in Ofer’s past.
In 2009, Sraya Ofer was sentenced to six months community service and an NIS 20,000 fine, on charges that included obstruction of justice and tampering with an investigation, for his role in the intimidation of a witness in a tax case against him. Another defendant, attorney Avital Lambursky, received a similar sentence in the case. Ofer had hired Lambursky to find the witness, Shimshon Naamat, who was suspected of forging tax receipts worth some NIS 16.5 million.
According to the indictment, Ofer and Lambursky tracked down Naamat and followed his car to Tiberias, where they met with him at night, with a number of armed associates present, and pressured him to give false testimony to tax investigators.
In 2011, Sraya was acquitted of fraud, counterfeiting, tax evasion and conspiracy, following an indictment issued in 2003 accusing him of failing to pay some NIS 13m.
Yisrael Sela, a senior Magen David Adom medic, said Monique Ofer was in great distress when paramedics found her.
“She said she managed to escape and that she was injured while fleeing,” Sela said.
Soldiers came and began searching for the attackers.
Ofer served in a range of combat posts, including as commander of the Shaked commando unit – which was subsequently dissolved in 1979 – and as a founding member of the Israel Air Force’s Shaldag commando unit.
He was one one of the founders of the Brosh Habika vacation village where the attack took place.
There has been a series of attacks on Israelis in the West Bank over the past month.
In September, two soldiers were killed in separate terrorist attacks, and this month, a nine-year-old girl was shot and lightly wounded in front of her home in the Psagot settlement. Two Palestinians, relatives from the adjacent city of El- Bireh, remain in custody over the attack on the girl.