All four Jewish suspects in the fatal shooting of an Arab man in Lod during rioting in the central city earlier this week were ordered released Thursday under relatively lenient restrictive conditions.
The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court imposed a gag order on any detail that might disclose the identities of the four, due to death threats against them and their families.
The four were previously remanded, after arguing that they shot 32-year-old Musa Hanusa in self-defense amid intense clashes and violence by Arab rioters in the Jewish-Arab city overnight Monday-Tuesday. Two other Arab men were injured.
After initially demanding that they be held in custody, police backtracked and asked for the suspects to be released to house arrest for 10 days, with an additional two-week restraining order barring them from Lod.
But the court did not send them to house arrest, instead releasing them on bail and barring them from Lod for several days.
A police representative told the court that the suspects’ version of events had received a boost over the last few days of investigation. An initial investigation indicated the shots were fired toward a man standing dozens of meters away and on Wednesday, the judge had said that the self-defense claim “doesn’t match the objective findings.”
It was not immediately clear what new details had come to light.
The police reversal on keeping the suspects in custody came after Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, who is in charge of policing, criticized the decision to remand them during a visit to Lod on Wednesday, and said he believed that they should be immediately released.
Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett, who is currently holding talks on forming a government in which he would serve as prime minister, also had called Wednesday for their release, saying it was a “moral injustice and a bad message to those who will want to protect themselves in the future.”
The Lod incident came during escalating ethnic tensions in the city amid the ongoing armed conflict with Gaza. The violence between Jews and Arabs has since spread to other locales. On Wednesday, Israel experienced its worst night of internal Jewish-Arab chaos for many years, as scenes of unrest, rioting, hate rallies and growing social chaos spread throughout numerous cities, some of which had been seen as symbols of coexistence.
Violent confrontations erupted in Lod, Acre, Jerusalem, Haifa, Bat Yam, Tiberias and many other locations, with people injured, some of them seriously, leading Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to announce that he was looking at deploying the military inside towns to restore order.
More than 400 people were arrested.
Despite two previous days of ever-expanding unrest, and a call-up of reinforcements for both police and Border Police, law enforcement once again seemed woefully unequipped to handle the scope of the chaos, and many scenes of violence went ahead with little police interference.
In Lod, which had been at the center of unrest for the two previous nights — with Arab mobs torching synagogues, stores and cars overnight Tuesday-Wednesday — a curfew was declared between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. Yet gangs prowled the streets and vandalized unimpeded for hours, with police containing some events, but failing to effectively control the crowds.
Violence between the Jewish and Arab communities spiraled from confrontations in Jerusalem surrounding the month-long Muslim month of Ramadan and clashes on the Temple Mount, and came to a head as Israel engaged in an increasingly escalating clash with terrorist groups firing rockets into Israel from Gaza.