2 teens arrested in West Bank said to have been en route to ‘price tag’ attack

2 teens arrested in West Bank said to have been en route to ‘price tag’ attack

Suspects transferred to interrogation; older one, 18, barred from meeting with lawyer for 4 days in tactic typically reserved for terror-related offenders

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

A view of the West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
A view of the West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

Police early Thursday morning arrested a pair of teens who were allegedly on their way to carry out a hate crime attack against a nearby Palestinian village in the central West Bank.

The two, ages 18 and 15, were pulled over while driving outside Bat Ayin and transferred to interrogation, a law enforcement official confirmed.

The Kan public broadcaster reported that the suspects had been en route to carry out a so-called price tag attack — an offense whose perpetrators claim is in retaliation for Palestinian violence or government policies seen as hostile to the settler movement.

A spokesman for the Honenu legal aid organization said that the older teen has been served an administrative order barring him from meeting with an attorney for four days. The tactic is sometimes used by security forces in ticking time-bomb scenarios where enhanced interrogation measures are employed to prevent an imminent attack.

“Once again, the Shin Bet [security service] is using an anti-democratic draconian tool against a young Jew,” said Nati Rom, a Honenu attorney representing the 18-year-old suspect. A defense official said the Shin Bet was not involved in the arrest and that it was a police matter.

Illustrative: Israeli soldiers stand by as masked Israeli settlers throw stones at Palestinian protesters (unseen) gathering during a demonstration against construction on an Israeli outpost near the Palestinian village of Turmusaya and the settlement of Shilo, north of Ramallah in the West Bank, October 17, 2019. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

The arrests came two days after another pair of teens were arrested in Bat Ayin on charges of assaulting two police officers. According to their attorney Moshe Polski — also from Honenu — the officers were disguised as Palestinian workers.

Polski claimed that the officers had been acting strangely, thus raising his clients’ suspicions. Moreover, the attorney pointed out that the ostensible Palestinian workers should not have been in the settlement to begin with because Bat Ayin has a strict policy against hiring non-Jews. In November, a Palestinian bus driver was assaulted during stops in Bat Ayin, leading the Egged public transportation company to briefly cease its services in the hilltop community.

Last month, two Israelis were arrested for hurling rocks at a Palestinian vehicle near Bat Ayin.

A security official told The Times of Israel then that there had been a notable increase in settler violence targeting Palestinians surrounding the Bat Ayin settlement in recent weeks.

These included a so-called Price Tag attack in neighboring Jab’a, in which the perpetrators vandalized vehicles and graffitied Hebrew phrases, including “Revenge for Bat Ayin,” in an incident days after security forces razed a structure in an illegal outpost near the flashpoint settlement.

Border Police at the Yitzhar settlement in the West Bank, October 24, 2019, after demolishing a structure at the Kumi Ori outpost near Yitzhar. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)

Settler youth also hurled stones at a police vehicle dispatched to secure Bat Ayin  last month. They managed to slash the tires of the jeep before fleeing the scene, Border Police said. No arrests were made.

The security official said that many of those involved in the latest spate of violence had come from the outposts surrounding another flashpoint settlement — Yitzhar in the northern West Bank.

In October, the IDF declared the Kumi Ori outpost southwest of Yitzhar a closed military zone, following several incidents of violence in which residents targeted neighboring Palestinians, as well as security forces dispatched to protect them.

Due to the increased military presence in the northern West Bank, some of the hilltop youth, as they are known, traveled south to the Bat Ayin area, the security official explained.

He added that the current situation in the West Bank was reminiscent of the lead-up to the 2015 firebombing of the Dawabsha family home in the village of Duma, a terror attack that killed a couple and their baby.

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