Violent clashes broke out between right wing activists and police at a Jerusalem demonstration late Sunday against the prolonged detention of Jewish Israelis suspected of carrying out a fatal firebombing in the West Bank Palestinian village of Duma in July.
Demonstrators blocked traffic in the Chords Bridge area, near the main entrance to the capital, and some hurled stones at police officers. Police in turn rushed the violent protesters in a bid to disperse the rally, arresting six activists.
About three hundred people in total took part in the demonstration.
Six police officers were wounded by violence directed at them by a small minority of the protesters, a police statement said. One officer had a broken hand.
Earlier Sunday, the Shin Bet security service announced a “development” in the Duma case. However, the agency stressed that a strict gag order on details about the case was still in place.
According to the Ynet news site, the agency was set to declare Sunday that it planned to file an indictment. It did not do so by Sunday midnight.
The July 31 attack, which killed three members of the Dawabsha family in the village of Duma, near Nablus. Only one member of the family — four-year-old Ahmed — survived the attack, and remains hospitalized in Israel. Baby Ali was killed on the night of the attack, while parents Riham and Sa’ad died of their injuries in the succeeding weeks.
The arson has been ruled a terror attack by authorities, leading Israel’s security cabinet to vote to extend to Israeli civilians several counterterrorism measures used in the West Bank against Palestinian terror suspects, including “administrative detention” without trial.
Under the rules of administrative detention, suspects believed to be directly involved in terror activity have the right to appeal their detention to the High Court of Justice, but do not receive a due-process trial in regular court.
Several alleged Jewish extremists were detained by the Shin Bet in late November — the exact number has not been revealed — on suspicion of carrying out the attack. On Wednesday, their attorneys, who were allowed to meet with all but one suspect only after two weeks of detention – and only after appeals to the High Court – alleged that the detainees were tortured during their interrogations.
Some 500 right-wing activists demonstrated on Saturday night in Jerusalem against the detentions and alleged torture outside the Jerusalem home of Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen, carrying signs that read, “We demand justice” and “Enough persecution by the [state] prosecution.”
In a Friday tweet, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), which deals overwhelmingly with allegations of human rights abuses against Palestinians, said, “[t]he report by the lawyers of the suspects in the Duma terror attack regarding the suspects’ interrogation by the Shin Bet raises serious suspicions that illegal methods of interrogation were employed, such as resorting to physical force.”
The group added in a second tweet: “We recall that a High Court of Justice ruling [forbidding] the use of torture was won by ACRI, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and the Hotline for Civil Rights and was based, among other sources, on reports by B’Tselem.”
The NGOs mentioned in the second tweet are groups usually dedicated to fighting rights abuses allegedly committed against Palestinians, and have been the subject of scathing right-wing criticism in recent weeks.
In response to the accusations, officials with the Shin Bet said over the weekend that the agency’s actions were within the remit of the legal mandate given to it by the cabinet.
The conditions of the suspects’ detention, including the denial of legal counsel for more than two weeks, were brought before the High Court of Justice last week and were approved, they noted.
“All the actions [of the Shin Bet] are carried out according to law and in keeping with judicial precedent,” the organization said in a statement, “and are subject to close oversight of higher authorities.”
Judah Ari Gross and Adiv Sterman contributed to this report.