The Shin Bet security agency and Israel Defense Forces are struggling to clearly determine the motive behind Col. (ret.) Sraya (Yaya) Ofer's murder outside his Jordan Valley home last week. Several Palestinian suspects who have been arrested still have not led to a breakthrough in the investigation, which despite the question marks surrounding it is being conducted as a case of nationalist terrorism.
Doubts regarding the motive stem from some of Ofer's business connections -- but a contract killing is usually not carried out in such a gruesome manner with axes and metal rods. Three avenues of investigation are simultaneously being pursued: terrorists who arrived at his home to kill Jews without knowing the specific target; murderers with a criminal motive who carried out a hit on Ofer; or a combined incident, meaning that whoever killed Ofer knew who they were targeting, but their motive was also nationalistic.
Evidence that Ofer's murder was not a terrorist attack can possibly be found in the Palestinian media of all places, which did not show any particular interest in the incident. Similar incidents in the past occupied the Palestinians a great deal, namely out of concern about a harsh Israeli response, but this time there were only minor mentions of it.
The Shin Bet and IDF are refraining from speculations at this stage, but at a glance it is difficult to ignore the wider context. Aside from Ofer's gruesome murder, there have been three other serious incidents in Judea and Samaria in recent weeks: the abduction and murder of IDF soldier Tomer Hazan; the shooting in which infantryman Gal Kobi was killed in Hebron; and the stabbing of a nine-year-old girl outside her home in Psagot near Ramallah.
Regarding the first incident, the investigation has revealed other reasons behind Hazan's voluntary trip to the Palestinian territories, which were exploited by his killer. Regarding the incident near Ramallah, which is officially being conducted as a terrorist investigation, no clear conclusions have been drawn and several Palestinians who were arrested have already been questioned and released. In recent days investigators have come to believe that the girl was stabbed, not shot as initially reported, and that the attack was criminal rather than nationalistic.
The most complicated incident occurred during the Sukkot holiday in Hebron. Security forces turned the city "upside down" during extensive searches and investigations there, and the Palestinians also applied pressure on the population in attempts to locate the shooter -- who still has not been caught. The main direction of the investigation, that it was an act of Palestinian terrorism, has not changed, but because no bullet casing was ever found, the IDF is continuing to investigate whether Kobi was killed by friendly fire.
The string of incidents, in retrospect, leaves the impression that we are mired in a strong wave of violence. The Shin Bet and IDF have already ruled it out, but the question marks in the air carry dangerous potential, which is why we must hope for the quickest possible resolution to the Ofer case, one that provides a clear and unambiguous account of what happened.