Israeli investigated by police over suspected killing of October 7 terrorist says he feels betrayed by the state

Sahar Ofir said ‘there was no situation’ in which he had killed a terrorist who had surrendered


Palestinian militants of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades move towards the Erez crossing between Israel and the northern Gaza Strip on October 7, 2023. (Photo by MOHAMMED ABED/AFP via Getty Images)

An Israeli citizen questioned by police over the suspected killing of a Palestinian terrorist whom he allegedly caught during the Hamas invasion of Israel on October 7 said he felt “betrayedby the state in every sense”.

The State Attorney’s Office issued a rare clarification of a police investigation into the involvement of two Israeli citizens in the alleged killing of the terrorist following what it said was incorrect information about the case that had led to “severe incitement” against staff from the office and Israel police.

Sahar Ofir, a recently released combat soldier, and Yisrael Biton, a volunteer in United Hatzalah rescue service, approached Israeli media outlets over the weekend to rebut the allegation that they had killed a terrorist who was captured alive.

Ofir, 22, told Israel’s Channel 12 on Saturday that he felt he was being turned into a criminal “by force” and said “there was no situation” in which he had killed a terrorist who had surrendered.

Ofir said he left his home on October 7 with a policeman friend to help fight terrorists who had broken across the border from Gaza.

He said he had used weapons taken off the corpses of terrorists along with ammunition received from policemen. At one stage, he said he had driven two gunmen who had surrendered to the police to a command centre in Sderot.

In an interview with Channel 12 on Sunday, Biton said that on October 7 a policeman had approached him with a captured terrorist and asked him to drive the individual to the Gvaram Junction, where Shin Bet security service agents were stationed.

“I don’t know what went on in his head, obviously wanting to kill as many Jews as possible, but he tried to kick me while driving,” Biton said. “In response, I stepped on his foot very hard. If I thought of killing him, I had a gun, I had a bullet loaded, I am completely legally licensed to shoot him.”

But Biton insisted that he had not killed the terrorist and had instead dropped him off at Gvaram Junction as instructed.

"I stopped in the middle of the road and saw a policeman so I shouted to him, 'Policeman, throw me the handcuffs.' He threw the handcuffs at me, I handcuffed the terrorist, we got into the car and as far I’m concerned, the mission is complete,” Biton said.

However, on Sunday Israeli authorities stated that video evidence had emerged showing Biton committing acts of violence against the terrorist in his vehicle and forensic tests had been able to determine that the Palestinian was killed, although a body has not been discovered. According to the State Attorney’s Office, the video surfaced after Biton and Ofir had been questioned about stolen firearms.

Biton was arrested on Tuesday for stealing weapons from a special forces police officer killed during the October 7 massacre and was ordered to be held in custody until the end of legal proceedings against him. While Ofir is no longer suspected of murder, according to the office’s latest statement, it is continuing to “guide” the process of investigations into allegations of murder against Biton.

However, despite the request of the police, the magistrates’ court refused to extend Biton’s detention and both he and Ofir have been released on “restrictive conditions”.

According to Channel 12, attorneys Tal Gabai and Yehuda Fried claim there is no evidence to prove that Biton is responsible for murdering the terrorist.

Gabai said: “It is difficult to get rid of the feeling that the state of Israel decided to sacrifice a number of citizens in order to show in The Hague that it has an enlightened judicial system that knows how to judge itself. And now that the court has ordered the release of the suspects and determined that there is no evidence in a murder case, the exact opposite result has been achieved, and we look like a banana republic.”

The case has caused uproar among citizens and politicians alike, with former Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz, a retired general, coming to the suspects’ defence on Sunday, saying that “every Gazan who crossed the border [on October 7] has a death sentence. All of them are in clear and immediate danger.”

Given the “chaos, shock and hours of guerrilla warfare” that took place on October 7, Gantz added that authorities must “give a broad backing and full support to those who fought – soldiers, policemen and civilians alike”.

According to Hebrew media reports, protesters have rallied in favour of the suspects over recent days, whom they commended for acts of heroism on October 7.

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