Prosecutors on Thursday filed rare indictments against two Israeli minors for their alleged involvement in a recent stone-throwing assault on a Palestinian village in the south Hebron hills.
The attack saw dozens of Israelis hurl stones at Palestinian homes and cars in the tiny hamlet of al-Mufaqara, a cluster of homes close to two illegal Israeli outposts. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid denounced the assault as “terror.” The incident also sparked condemnations from the European Union and the United Nations.
The two suspects, aged 15 and 17, are both residents of the South Hebron Hills. The younger settler was accused of attempted assault and malicious damage, and was also indicted on a rioting charge.
The other was charged with aggravated assault of a public servant for allegedly assaulting an Israel Defense Forces officer who, the indictment said, was trying to distance the assailants from the small Palestinian shepherding village.
Israeli authorities rarely file indictments against Israelis who conduct acts of vigilante assault and vandalism against Palestinians. The Yesh Din rights group reported in 2020 that 91 percent of police investigations between 2005 and 2019 were closed without charges.
According to the indictment, dozens of masked Jews armed with clubs and knives entered the village and threw rocks at residents, smashed the windows of several homes, set loose a flock of animals from its pen, vandalized cars and caused other material damage.
The attack left at least 12 Palestinians injured, including a three-year-old boy, according to Israeli and Palestinian witnesses.
The boy, Mohammad Bakr Hussein, was struck in the head by stones and rushed to Soroka hospital in Beersheba. According to his family, doctors fear that Mohammad may have sustained lasting brain damage from the attack.
“Two were charged? How can that be? There were dozens of settlers who attacked us on that day! Tell the world that ‘justice’ in Israel is going in the wrong direction,” Mahmoud, Mohammad’s grandfather, said in a phone call.
Witnesses said at the time that some Palestinians threw stones back at the settlers. Three Israelis were injured as well, according to Hebrew media reports.
The United States, EU, and UN condemned the violence, with the UN labeling it “an attack on Palestinian civilians.”
דיווח ראשוני על ארוע אלים כעת בדרום הר חברון: הפלסטינים מדווחים על אלימות מתנחלים והשלכת אבנים על מכוניות ובתים בכפר הפלסטיני מפקרה. בצהל בודקים את הדיווח. pic.twitter.com/qN9DJlfSW4
— Or Heller אור הלר (@OrHeller) September 28, 2021
The indictments come amid a recent uptick in attacks by extremist settlers, many of them specifically targeting Palestinian olive groves ahead of the fall olive harvest in the West Bank, which began earlier this month.
Assault and vandalism by settlers against Palestinians and Israeli security forces in the West Bank are commonly referred to as “price tag” attacks. Perpetrators claim that they are retaliation for Palestinian violence or government policies seen as hostile to the settler movement.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.