A Palestinian suspect accused of beating an 84-year-old Jewish Israeli woman to death near Tel Aviv has been found dead, ending a massive police manhunt.
The woman, named by Israeli media as Shulamit Ovadia, was attacked on a street near her home in the city of Holon on Tuesday afternoon.
Security camera footage of the incident showed a man with a metal bar striking her repeatedly from behind before she fell to the ground. Ovadia was found unconscious by a passerby and declared dead at the scene by paramedics.
A search for Palestinian suspect Mousa Sarsour, 28, was called off in the early hours of Wednesday after his body was found in central Tel Aviv. Israeli media quoted police as saying his death was an apparent suicide.
Sarsour, from the occupied West Bank town of Qalqilya, had a work permit to legally enter Israel for a construction job, where wages are much higher.
Israeli police spokesperson Shlomo Sagi said Sarsour was stopped and questioned by police in the weeks before the attack, but let go after showing his work permit.
“He was checked twice by police in the last two weeks. But there was nothing on him, he didn’t have a knife or anything. The inquiry shows that he acted alone, but we have to investigate more to see if he had partners. There is much more work to do,” he told Israel’s Army Radio.
In a statement late on Tuesday, Israel’s caretaker prime minister, Yair Lapid, described the incident as “a shocking attack by a despicable and cowardly terrorist who murdered an elderly woman who could not fight back”.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said five people suspected of assisting in Ovadia’s murder were arrested overnight in the West Bank. Israeli media reported that the five were members of Sarsour’s family. Israel frequently arrests relatives of Palestinian individuals suspected of terrorist attacks.
Ovadia is survived by her husband, for whom she acted as a carer, and her three children and grandchildren. A total of 22 people in Israel and illegal settlements in the West Bank have been killed by Palestinians this year.
A particularly deadly wave of attacks this spring led Israel to launch Operation Breakwater, an offensive of near-nightly raids designed to root out Palestinian militants from strongholds across the West Bank.
Hundreds of Palestinians have been arrested since and some 90 have been killed, a seven-year high. Many of the dead were militants, while others were local youths killed while throwing stones or firebombs at Israeli troops. Civilians have also been killed in the violence, including veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh.
The raids have ratcheted up tensions in several restive cities and weakened the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the West Bank and maintains security ties with Israel.