Cleared for publication: Yaakov Teitel, 35, of the West Bank settlement of Shvut Rachel, has been arrested for allegedly carrying out a series of domestic acts of terror over the past few years.
The Shin Bet and police believe Teitel, a father of four who immigrated to Israel from the US in 2000, is the mastermind behind a string of attacks, including the murder of two Arabs and the attack on Hebrew University Professor Ze'ev Sternhell.
Teitel was arrested in Jerusalem in a joint police-Shin Bet operation on October 7. He is suspected of attempted murder, aggravated assault, arms offenses and racial incitement.
So far, Teitel has confessed to carrying out the following:
- The 1997 murder of an east Jerusalem taxi driver
- The 1997 murder of a Palestinian shepherd south of Mount Hebron
- Placing an explosive device in the Ramallah-adjacent settlement of Eli in 2006 – the device was found and disarmed safely
- Placing an explosive device near a Beit Shemesh monetary in 2007, which resulted in one Palestinian injured
- A 2007 explosion which took place in the Ramot neighborhood in Jerusalem – a police cruiser was severely damaged, but no injuries were reported
- Hurling explosives at a police car in June 2007 – no injuries or damage were reported
- Sending a parcel bomb to a messianic family residing in Ariel, which resulted in a 15-year-old boy suffering severe injuries
- Placing a pipe bomb near Prof. Zeev Sternhell's Jerusalem home in September of 2008 – Sternhell was lightly wounded.
Teitel immigrated to Israel seven years ago, but made numerous prior visits to the country. Police believe he was able to smuggle 10 guns and rifles from the US to Israel, starting in 1997, including an M-16 rifle, a Ruger sniper rifle and a Glock handgun.
The Glock is believed to be the murder weapon used in both 1997 murders. Teitel told police both murders were committed in retaliation to Palestinian suicide attacks. He was arrested in 2000 in connection with the murder of the Palestinian shepherd, but was released for lack of evidence.
Special circumstances case
Teitel was arrested during a police operation which took place on October 7 at the Har Nof neighborhood in Jerusalem.
According to local residents, dozens of police and SWAT officers deployed in the area and began pursuing a man who was spotted throwing away a suspicious looking bag.
The man, later identified as Teitel, was arrested while posting flyers bashing the gay community and commending the man who carried out the deadly attack on a Tel Aviv gay youth center in August. Once the police retrieved the bag, they found two handguns in it.
Teitel was turned over for Shin Bet interrogation, while SWAT teams raided four locations connected with the case: His Shvut Rachel home, his brother-in-law's home in the settlement, his parents' home in the Beitar Illit, in Gush Etzion, and his mother-in-law's home in Har Nof, where two computers were confiscated.
The search of his home and its immediate premises uncovered a cache of guns, parts used in making explosive devices, binoculars and pellets used to maximize the impact of explosives, as well flyers inciting against the gay community.
Weapons found in the search
The weapons were confiscated, along with one computer, numerous documents and the family's car. The explosives were detonated by police sappers.
Teitel was held in special Shin Bet custody for 48 hours without seeing his attorney or being brought before a judge – which is allowed by proxy of a special article in the Criminal Code.
Two days after his arrest, police forces raided Teitel's home again. They were spotted by a few local residents, who attempted to stop them from entering the settlement. The non-violent objection was unsuccessful.
Security forces went on to canvass the settlement before once again searching Teitel's home. This time, they found an explosive device buried in the yard.
'We pray allegations are false'
At this time, Attorney Adi Keidar of the Honenu organization, which provides legal aid to radical-right activists, petitioned the Petah Tikva District Court to be allowed to meet with him. The court denied the petition, remanding Teitel to an additional eight days.
Keidar then petitioned to have the remand shortened. The court denied the motion once more, remanding Teitel to three more days. The court also extended the special ordinance keeping the suspect from meeting with his lawyer.
Keidar filed a High Court appeal, but was denied again. Teitel's parents, Mordechai and Elisheba told Ynet that they had "no idea why Yaakov was arrested… (We) are still trying to find out what he is suspected of. We're worried about him. We don't know anything."
The courts also issued a comprehensive gag order on the case and all of Teitel's arraignments have been held behind closed doors.
During one of the hearings, Keidar asked the court to confer with his client in order to explain his rights to him, especially the right to remain silent, but once again the court refused. Teitel was let in the court only after Keidar left, at which time the judge herself detailed his rights.
Teitel used the opportunity to inform the court he did not recognize its jurisdiction. Keidar told Ynet that the motives for his client's actions are unclear and the he "sees himself a as messenger" and is mentally unstable – "a point proven to the police" by the fact that he has implicated himself in acts he did not commit.
Teitel's DNA matched DNA retrieved from a stocking cap found near Prof. Sternhell's home after the assault on him.
A Shin Bet source said Teitel was questioned about the Gay youth center shooting, but investigators concluded he was not the perpetrator.
The police also have evidence connecting him to a suspicios object found near the home of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Shas party's spiritual leader.
A spokesman for Shvut Rachel said that "the community condemns these actions, but we will believe in (Teitel's) innocence until such time that his is proven guilty.
"There were grave and wrong acts and we utterly denounce them. The community hopes the defense establishment will uncover the truth, but we pray that the allegations against him prove false, and stress that the Left's attempts to use this situation to incite against all settlers are ugly and poor."
Binyamin Council Head Avi Roeh said that the acts attributed to Teitel were "grave, wrong and unthinkable both morally and legally… The suspect does not represent the majority. The people of Binyamin and Shvut Rachel are moral, law-abiding citizens who denounced such acts."
Efrat Weiss, Ronen Medzini, Roi Mandel, Raanan Ben-Zur and Aviad Glickman contributed to this report