Police on Monday raided an apartment in Jerusalem and arrested nine suspected Jewish extremists accused of defying restraining orders banning them from entering the West Bank.
The arrests were made in the Kiryat Moshe neighborhood of the capital in an apartment run by Elkana Pikar, a resident of the Yitzhar settlement, who is seen as a leader of the far-right settler group known as the hilltop youth. He has admitted to hosting members of the group in his home, but denies any connection to acts of violence or vandalism.
Last month the Shin Bet security services issued Pikar a restraining order banning him from the West Bank for four months due to his alleged involvement in acts of violence against Palestinians.
According to a report from the Hebrew Ynet news website, Pikar was using the apartment as a refuge for hilltop youth, many of who were also subject to restraining orders against visiting the West Bank.
Under the restraining orders they are also barred from meeting with other members of the group.
Pikar has claimed in the past that those sleeping in his apartment were employed for odd jobs in his construction business, the report said.
Itamar Ben Gvir, an attorney representing some of those arrested, accused police of harassment for provoking a violent response from those associated with the hilltop youth.
“The police are abusing the hilltop youth, hounding them and bullying them and in this situation the responsibility for price tag [attacks] is on the shoulders of the police alone,” Gvir said in a statement. “When you pursue young people to the limit and push them against the wall, it is no surprise that some of them respond and can’t sit quietly.”
“I call on the police, the state prosecutor, and the Shin Bet to stop the hounding in order to calm the situation on the ground,” he added.
In May the Shin Bet said that “the restraining order against Elkana Pikar was given due to his direct involvement in recent acts of violence [committed] in the Yitzhar area against Palestinians and [Israeli] security forces.”
Protests were held in the weeks before the expected issuing of the restraining order. His face was plastered on bus stops, with the phrase “We are all Elkana Pikar.” A week before the order was handed down, dozens of vehicles were vandalized with graffiti and slashed tires in suspected anti-Arab hate crime attacks in East Jerusalem and the Galilee.
In addition to the words “price tag” — a right-wing slogan used in racially motivated attacks — the phrase “Pikar the king” was spray-painted on one of the cars in an apparent demonstration of solidarity with the Yitzhar resident.
Beyond the four-month West Bank ban, Pikar, 32, was prohibited for six months from meeting with a list of activists provided by the Shin Bet. The father of six was also required to report weekly to the Ma’ale Adumim police station.