yaacov teitel 248.88.
(photo credit: Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency))
The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the Israel Police announced on Sunday that they had arrested an American-born settler allegedly behind an unprecedented series of deadly terrorist shootings and bombings spanning 12 years, in which two Arabs were killed and Israel Prize laureate Prof. Ze'ev Sternhell was wounded.
According to the Shin Bet, he also planted a bomb at the entrance to house of a messianic Jewish couple in Ariel, seriously wounding their son, Ami Ortiz, who was then 15.
Ya'acov "Jack" Teitel, 37, was arrested by the Israel Police's YAMAM elite counterterror unit on October 7 as he was hanging flyers in the Jerusalem's Har Nof neighborhood in support of the attack on a Tel Aviv gay and lesbian youth club in August in which two people were killed.
Teitel, the Shin Bet stressed, was not the gunman in that attack, who perpetrator is still at large.
Jerusalem Police Chief Cmdr. Aharon Franco said Teitel had confessed to a spate of attacks and reenacted them. Police also displayed photos of a large weapons cache seized at the suspect's home.
"He is like a serial killer. This guy was a Jewish terrorist who targeted different types of people," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. "He was deeply involved in terrorism on all different levels."
Results of the police investigation will be turned over to the state prosecutor to prepare an indictment.
Teitel, a father of four from the Shvut Rahel settlement, 45 km. north of Jerusalem, came to Israel in 1997 and allegedly smuggled a handgun into Israel aboard a British Airways flight.
The Shin Bet says the gun was used to kill an east Jerusalem cab driver on June 8, 1997, and two months later to shoot and kill a Palestinian shepherd near the Carmel settlement in the South Hebron Hills.
Teitel then left Israel for Florida and returned three years later in 2000. According to the Shin Bet, he was wanted at the time by American authorities for his alleged involvement in violent criminal activity in the US.
"He was a lone attacker," a senior Shin Bet official said when explaining why it took some 12 years since the first attack to arrest Teitel, who has a degree in business and made a living by developing Web sites.
Teitel, officials said, was an "autodidact" when it came to weapons expertise. In addition to the gun smuggled by air, he allegedly smuggled into Israel another nine automatic machine guns and handguns hidden in a shipping container.
His father, who now lives in Betar Illit, served for many years as a dentist in the US Marines and officials said it was possible that Teitel learned about weapons and explosives during his time on American military bases.
"He is an autodidact when it came to using weapons and assembling bombs," the Shin Bet official said. "They were not the most advanced devices, but they were pretty sophisticated and deadly."
Israel Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen said the investigation uncovered a "dark, dangerous world in which human lives were taken, and others injured, against what appears to be an extremist ideological background."
Teitel was actually arrested by police and the Shin Bet upon his return to Israel in 2000, based on intelligence they had obtained, indicating that he was behind the 1997 shootings. The police released him after they could not find evidence to support the intelligence.
For this reason, Teitel was allowed to receive a license to carry a handgun that was discovered loaded and on him when he was arrested last month.
Officials said that Teitel was extremely cautious and did not discuss his attacks with anyone, not even his wife. As an example, police said that when he was nabbed in Har Nof last month hanging flyers, he was wearing thick gloves so as not to leave fingerprints. However, he had been under surveillance for a while before then.
During interrogation, Teitel confessed to several shooting and bombing attacks, the first of which were the shootings in 1997.
He also allegedly attempted to bomb police stations and patrols because they provided security for gay pride parades.
In November 2006, he planted a bomb inside a police station in Eli, not far from Shvut Rahel. The bomb was discovered and dismantled, but the Shin Bet official said "it was sophisticated" and that had it gone off, "people would have been killed."
Teitel said he attacked the police station to deter police from providing security for a gay pride rally scheduled for Jerusalem later that month.
In April 2007, Teitel allegedly planted a bomb next to the Beit Jamal Monastery near Beit Shemesh. A Palestinian driving a tractor set off the bomb and was injured. Teitel told his interrogators that he planted the device because he heard that the monastery was seducing Jewish children with candy.
Teitel also confessed to planting another bomb in Jerusalem's Ramot neighborhood near a police car on May 15, 2007. The bomb exploded but no one was injured.
A month later he allegedly planted another bomb on the side of a road near the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood and detonated it as a police car passed by. Again, no one was injured.
Teitel, officials said, made the explosive devices in a room in his family's home in Shvut Rahel. He hid the weapons cache near his home and hid another gun outside the nearby Adei Ad settlement.
He confessed to planting a bomb on March 20, 2008, at the entrance to the Ortiz family home in Ariel, messianic Jews whom he believed were trying to convert Jews to Christianity.
On September 25, 2008, Teitel allegedly planted a bomb at the entrance to the home of Sternhell in Jerusalem, which went off and lightly wounded the well-known academic and Peace Now activist. Teitel said he decided to target Sternhell since he understood that the professor had called to kill settlers.
Teitel also confessed to stabbing an Arab youth in 1997 in the capital's Independence Park, since he thought he was gay and was making sexual advances at him.
Officials said that Teitel has been planning additional attacks when he was arrested, but would not specify against whom.
In the arms cache found near his house, police discovered a sophisticated sniper rifle, an M15 machine gun, an M16 shortened automatic rifle, a Glock handgun and a Browning 9mm handgun.
The gun that he said he smuggled into Israel aboard a British Airways flight and was used in the 1997 murders was not discovered by police. He said he hid it next to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. Despite extensive searches, it has not been found.
While police do not have the murder weapon, they said that Teitel confessed to those shootings, reenacted them and knew details that only the murderer could have known.
Teitel created names for himself in flyers and other documents. In one he called himself the "Red Hand for Redemption" and called the perpetrator of the August attack on the Tel Aviv gay and lesbian youth club the "Black Bear."
Shin Bet officials said they could not find meaning behind the names.
During the press briefing on Sunday evening, Jerusalem police officials said that a special investigative unit had been working on the case up until the attack on Sternhell, after which additional police units began participating.
Furthermore, police said that between the November 2006 attack in Eli and the September 2008 attack at Sternhell's home, investigators began to suspect that they were in fact dealing with "either one man or one group," based on the emerging, similar ideologies lacing the attacks together.
Before those bombings, investigators did not believe that the attacks were connected.
While security officials had earlier stated that Teitel had taught himself how to use weapons and explosives, Jerusalem police added on Sunday evening that at least some of that self-instruction had come via the Internet.
Police added that Teitel would try out his explosives in "open areas," where he would experiment and improve on his methods.
Franco, who presided over the press briefing, said that investigators had found "absolutely no sign that [Teitel] worked with accomplices. No sign at all."
Franco also reiterated earlier statements from security officials, stating that Teitel did not carry out the attack on the gay and lesbian youth club in Tel Aviv in August.
"[Teitel] did not, and I repeat, he did not, carry out the attack," Franco said.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu congratulated security officials for their actions against those who violently take the law into their own hands.
Security officials briefed Netanyahu about the case a few weeks ago, and he had Teitel in mind when he prepared some of his remarks to the Knesset last Thursday, on the 14th anniversary of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination.
"There still exists among us a minority that is not willing to accept democratic decisions or the supremacy of law... They constitute a small marginal minority. We have already seen the power and the harm caused by one murderer. We must denounce the use of violence and use the full weight of law enforcement to prevent the use of such violence," Netanyahu said.
Teitel has lived in Shvut Rachel for six years, his brother-in-law Moshe Avitan said.
Avitan said Teitel was a loner who spoke no Hebrew and rarely expressed political opinions. He worked from home.
In Shvut Rachel, a community of 120 families in the Binyamin region, residents were shocked by the allegations against Teitel, saying he and his wife, Rivka, were a quiet couple who kept mostly to themselves. They have children aged four months, and two, three and five years.
Spokesman Shimaria Tiram said the family was not that involved in the community and that people did not know them all that well.
A family spokesman, Amnon Shomron, said that on the night of Teitel's arrest in Har Nof, police also broke into his home in Shvut Rachel. Officers also entered the home of his mother-in-law in Har Nof and that of his wife's sister, who also lives in Shvut Rachel.
Police also broke into the home of Teitel's parents, who live in Betar Illit.
On October 21, the police briefly detained Rivka Teitel at the Tapuah junction in Samaria as she was on her way to court in Petah Tikva.
Tiram said that police had also questioned a number of Shvut Rachel residents who knew Teitel.
In a statement to the media, the Shvut Rachel settlement said it stood behind Teitel and believed in his innocence even as it denounced the kind of violent attacks with which he had been charged.
"Until he has been proven guilty we believe in his innocence," the community said.
It added that it was upset by the way the Left was exploiting the incident and using it to incite people against all settlers.
Tovah Lazaroff, Yaakov Lappin and AP contributed to this report.