The mayor of the West Bank settlement of Efrat called Sunday for the release of four local Palestinians who remained in Palestinian Authority police custody four days after they were arrested for visiting his sukkah.
The four men were arrested Thursday after they joined several dozen other Palestinians living near Efrat in visiting the sukkah, along with about 30 Jewish Israelis, as part of a peace event.
It is a Jewish tradition to host friends and associates in the temporary structure that are used during Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) to recall the booths erected in the desert by the Israelites during their exodus from Egypt.
Mayor Oded Revivi said it is unacceptable the men were targeted for taking part in the event and slammed their reported continued incarceration.
“I call upon the Palestinian Authority to immediately release my Sukkot guests. It is absurd that having coffee with Jews is considered a crime by the Palestinian Authority. Initiatives that seek to foster cooperation and peace between people should be encouraged, not silenced. It’s time the Palestinian Authority asks itself whether it would prefer to fan the flames of conflict instead of working to bring people together,” Revivi said in a statement.
Also at the gathering were senior settler figures and officials in the Israeli security services — among them the head of the IDF Central Command Nitzan Alon, as well as members of the police and Civil Administration (the Israeli government’s representative body in the West Bank).
After images of the Palestinians at the event circulated on social media, the four were summoned by Palestinian intelligence and asked about their meeting with “the murderers of babies” — a possible reference to an accident six weeks ago in which an Efrat resident ran over and killed a six-year-old Palestinian girl. The girl’s parents were also at the sukkah gathering, Channel 2 said.
Khaled Tafish, a parliamentarian in the Palestinian Legislative Council, said on Palestinian television, according to The Jerusalem Post, “If they knew that there would be a punishment and that they will be pursued for doing that, then the incident would not have happened.”
PA Deputy Governor of Bethlehem Muhammad Taha said, according to The Jerusalem Post, that the incident was under investigation and that the men would be held accountable under Palestinian law. He also said that Palestinians “condemn” the visit and that “visiting settlers is completely unacceptable.”