Hamas Supporter from Gaza Held for Blacksmith’s Murder

Israeli security forces have reportedly captured one of the men responsible for the murder of Yigal Vaknin, the blacksmith who was killed last week in an orchard near the Tel Aviv suburb of Ra’anana.

Vaknin, 22, was stabbed to death on the eve of Yom Kippur. His body was found in an orchard near Moshav Batzra, in the Sharon Valley.

The suspect was captured within days of the stabbing. He was identified as Yussuf Awad Massalha, 27, of Deir el-Balah in the Gaza Strip. A magistrate’s court in Kfar Sava issued an order Monday to hold Massalha for 15 days, pending arraignment.

A second suspect escaped.

Massalha was reported to have made a confession, which included reconstructing the crime for police cameras. He was said to have explained that he murdered Vaknin as an “entrance test” to the military branch of the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement.

Attached to Vaknin’s body had been a note saying that the murder was in revenge for the killing of activists of Hamas, which has opposed the Palestine Liberation Organization’s recent accord with Israel.

Earlier in the week, security officials informed the Cabinet that they believed Hamas was behind the killing. But Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin struck a more optimistic note, saying that since the signing of the Palestinian self-rule agreement in Washington on Sept. 13, Hamas had shown fewer signs of belligerence in the territories.

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