5 Druze charged with kidnapping Palestinians in revenge for teen’s body-snatching

Masked gunmen forced laborers into car in Druze city of Yarka and beat them, before Tiran Fero’s remains were returned by terrorists in Jenin

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

A Palestinian man after he was briefly taken by masked men in the northern Druze city of Yarka, November 24, 2022. (Screenshot: Twitter; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
A Palestinian man after he was briefly taken by masked men in the northern Druze city of Yarka, November 24, 2022. (Screenshot: Twitter; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Five Druze Israeli men were charged on Thursday with kidnapping three Palestinian laborers in November in a revenge attack, after the body of a Druze Israeli teen was snatched by terrorists from a hospital in the West Bank.

According to a joint statement by the Shin Bet security agency and Israel Police, the five men from the northern Druze town of Yarka were detained in the months since the incident, and were accused of kidnapping, assaulting, and threatening the three Palestinians at gunpoint, as the body of Tiran Fero was being held in Jenin.

The statement named the suspects as Ali Fathi Atallah, 20, Kareem Yousef Salim Atallah, 23, Wal Fahri Muhammed Atallah, 21, and two unnamed men who were minors at the time of the incident.

The alleged attack occurred in the early morning hours of November 24, shortly before the body of Fero, from the Druze-majority town of Daliyat al-Karmel, was returned to his family.

The kidnapping of Fero infuriated the Druze community in Israel. Several members of the community on social media threatened that if Fero’s body was not returned quickly, they would attempt to enter Jenin and retrieve it themselves.

According to law enforcement officials, the five decided to carry out the kidnapping after hearing about Fero.

Tiran Fero. (Courtesy)

The suspects arrived at a site in Yarka where Palestinian laborers were staying and kidnapped three Jenin residents at gunpoint while firing into the air with a handgun and a makeshift submachine gun, the indictment said.

The three Palestinians were thrown into the trunk of a car and taken to an isolated area, where the Druze men forced them to contact their families to let them know they had been kidnapped, it said.

According to the Shin Bet, the attackers then “severely” beat the Palestinians “until they drew blood,” while telling them they were being kidnapped as revenge for the kidnapping of Fero’s body.

“The accused continued to attack the complainants by pushing them to the ground, hitting them on the head, kicking them, throwing stones at them, and pushing the complainants down a slope toward a stone wall,” the indictment read.

“No one will harm the Druze and we will murder you, you who murdered him,” one of the suspects allegedly said to the Palestinians.

In what appeared to be a hostage video posted online, one of the victims could be seen sitting on the ground, surrounded by the assailants.

Another unconfirmed video showed five masked men holding rifles and threatening to go into Jenin to retrieve Fero’s body if it was not returned by the morning.

The Palestinians pleaded with the attackers, claiming they were from Hebron and had nothing to do with the snatching of Fero’s body.

Eventually the attackers left, and police found the trio a short while later near the location of the abduction. The victims were taken to Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya for treatment.

“The suspects conspired ahead of time after viewing posts on social media about the kidnapping of the Druze youth, equipped themselves with firearms, batons, knives, axes, and face covers, and looked for potential victims,” the statement said.

On Thursday, indictments were filed against the five, leading the Shin Bet and police to publish details of the case.

They were charged with various security offenses, including a terror act of kidnapping, use of firearms for terror, and aggravated assault, according to the indictment.

Family and friends mourn during the funeral procession of Tiran Fero, in Daliyat al-Karmel, northern Israel, November 24, 2022. (Shir Torem/Flash90)

Fero, who would have celebrated his 18th birthday two days after his death, was critically injured in a car crash in Jenin and taken to a hospital in the Palestinian city due to his severe condition.

His family claimed that Palestinian gunmen detached him from life support and grabbed him from the hospital, while the military and a senior defense source said that he was already dead when he was taken.

His body was returned to his family in Israel after being held by terrorists in the West Bank for around 30 hours. The body was transferred over at the Salem crossing near Jenin.

The Jenin area has been seen as a major hotspot for terror in recent months and the Palestinian Authority is believed to be losing control of the region.

Last month, Israeli troops detained Jibril Zubeidi in the West Bank city of Jenin, who was allegedly involved in the kidnapping.

In another revenge attack over the kidnapping of Fero, two Druze soldiers were charged with hurling an explosive device at a home of a random Palestinian in the West Bank.

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