The Islamic Jihad terrorist organization claimed responsibility Monday night for the brutal murder of 42 year old Erez Levanon, a well-known member of the Gush Etzion community of Bat Ayin. The terrorist group announced on its website that a splinter group, the al Quds Brigades, carried out the attack, warning of "more operations against soldiers and settlers who operate in a criminal manner against the people of Hebron."
The terrorist group added that the attack was carried out "in retaliation for the continued Zionist aggression against the steadfast city of Nablus," referring to a wide-ranging counter-terrorist operation that began in the city on Sunday.
The IDF slapped a curfew on the 50,000 residents of Shechem (Nablus), sealing off the entrances with rubble and closing off the Casbah (inner marketplace) with trash cans and cement blocks after several bomb factories were discovered over the weekend. Defense officials said the closure would be open-ended until the constant terrorist threats emanating from the city were eliminated. That effort they said, also included the capture of eight members of the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades terrorist organization, a group that is part of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction.
Police arrested two 18 year old Palestinian Authority Arabs early Monday morning for the murder, less than 24 hours after Levanon's lifeless body was discovered Sunday by a search party organized by his neighbors, sprawled near his car, his throat and belly slashed. The murder site was only a few hundred yards from his home.
Security officials captured Mudar Abu-Dia and Mousaa Ahalil, both who confessed to the murder, in the Arab village of Beit Omar north of Hevron, where they were hiding. The village is close to the area where Levanon was stabbed multiple times, said defense sources. The two murderers admitted to having planned their attack in advance but initially claimed they had no ties to any terrorist organization.
Levanon's body was laid to rest in the cemetery in Kfar Etzion, a kilometer away from his home.
The husband and father of three had a custom to stop and pray in a quiet location for an hour a day, usually in the same spot according to Rabbi Michi Yossefi, a close friend of the Breslover chossid.
Levanon, a Torah scholar and gifted musician, was apparently murdered during his prayers, said his friend.